Brain Entrainment: Listen Your Way to Greatness

Jenna Van Schoor explores the world's fascination with brainwave entrainment to enhance mental productivity...

Human Acceleration

We’re all aware of the effect that noise can have on our productivity, especially disturbances as opposed to sounds more conducive to concentration. Other genres of music, depending on your personal preference, can help with motivation, but what if there were specifically engineered sounds that could help us be more productive?

We’ve discussed the benefits of mindfulness and meditation before, but we’re excited to explore the world’s fascination with brainwave entrainment to enhance mental productivity.

In basic terms brain entrainment is the use of specifically designed soundscapes that affect the brain in a certain way, but which work specifically through the use of headphones. With isochronic tones and monaural beats, which are specific tones and sounds emitted at precise intervals to achieve a certain brain state, we can align our brain’s frequencies to a certain wave pattern. Monaural beats are at the lower end of the spectrum, and isochronic at the higher end, and the contrast between the two allows for the most powerful form of entrainment. To expand on the above definition, brain entrainment is therefore the way the brain uses its own frequency to match the difference between these two kinds of beats.

This process is obviously much more complex than can be described here, but in basic neuroscientific terms, there are various brain states, and therefore various tones that can be used to achieve these, ranging from alert to deeply relaxed. For example, when starting your day it could be helpful to listen to tones that will entrain your brain to a beta wavelength, which is the optimal frequency for alertness. One the other hand, if you’re looking to be a bit more relaxed, getting your brain into an alpha wave frequency can help to lessen stress and anxiety. The other brain states, theta and delta, might not be conducive to productivity at work, but getting into these could be helpful for treating insomnia, or overall stress due to a chronic lack of sleep.

Mindvalley is one organisation that is focused on providing access to these kinds of audio, and is a technology company at the forefront of various kinds of self-development, from audio meditations to online courses. With their app, Omvana, anyone can access a variety of short meditations, aimed at everything from relieving stress to maximising concentration. Many of these can be applied to productivity, most notably the number of audio sessions that focus on “brain entrainment”.

While all of this might sound very helpful in theory, what is the scientific evidence to back this up? The Monroe Institute has been researching the effects of certain brain wave patterns for years, and another study (Lane et al.) showed that people performed better when listening to music with brainwave entrainment tones and sounds, specifically attuned to beta frequencies. When it comes to optimising your brainwave activity to be able to focus and get more done, it’s incredible to think what just 10 minutes of listening to a particular kind of sound, like Qualia’s Laser Focus, can do for your state of mind.

As technology continues to improve, and scientists learn more about how the brain works, it’s exciting to think of what’s next, especially in the context of the evolving future workplace. When we think about how receptive our brain state is to sound, it’s incredible to think of the potential for future sound engineering, and how much power we actually do have to change the way our brains work- quite literally.

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