By D. Lips

You might have heard about the possibilities to enhance cognitive functioning utilizing brain supplements and various other techniques. One of these techniques is currently exploited by various commercial organizations are so-called ‘binaural beats’ – sound files that can alter your brain wave frequency to a desired frequency to induce positive effects such as improved concentration, enhanced creativity and better memory functioning

But how do these audio brain supplements work?

By simultaneously stimulating the brain with 2 sounds with slightly different frequencies, a beat frequency at the difference of the 2 frequencies is created that entrains brain waves so they act in synchronization with the generated beat (e.g. 495 & 510 Hz produce a 10 Hz beat).

Various mental states are associated with various brain wave patterns. To illustrate, a state of concentration and focus corresponds with more alpha activity (8-12 Hz), whereas a state of heightened creativity correlates with theta-frequency brain wave activity (4-7 Hz).

Using binaural beats, brain waves can be channeled to specific desired activity, creating the desired mental state, or at least, so it is claimed by the many companies promoting and selling their beats as auditory brain supplements.

companies make all sorts of claims related to the capacity of these beats; ‘double your ability to concentrate’, ‘enhance your memory’, ‘gain more confidence’.

Many of these claims are completely false, but there must be some truth behind the concept of brain wave synchronization in order for these companies to survive.

Question is whether or not empirical evidence exists that backs up the claims made by these companies.

Some quick research shows that there is no general consensus on this matter; some studies showed modest results, some studies indicated that any reported effects were not due to ‘binaural beats’ but merely due to normal acoustic sounds.

Nonetheless, recent research conducted by a team of researchers in Amsterdam indicates that binaural beats do indeed have a significant effect on brain-wave activity; the researchers used EEG equipment in order to assess changes in brain-wave frequency as a result of listening to binaural beats while also performing a control experiment.

The results indicate that the increased brain activity for targeted brain waves was indeed significantly higher. Subjects who were listening to a binaural beat designed to enhance concentration by increasing alpha-activity indeed showed higher alpha brain activity. The same was true for those listening to a beat designed to improve creativity by increasing theta brain activity.

Binaural beats thus seem to have a promising potential, but more research will have to be conducted in order to draw any conclusions.

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For more details on the above described experiment and binaural beats, see binaural beats in the brain

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