While the term psycho-acoustic medicine may be relatively new in our world, the practices of using sound and frequencies to impact the physical and emotional health of the body has been used since the beginning of time. From Gregorian chants in churches, to the chanting of Tibetan monks, to Native American drumming, song and sound have been a catalyst in stimulating health and healing for the body and mind in all cultures. The definition of psycho-acoustic medicine is the science of how music and sound impact the nervous system, psychologically and physiologically. Simply, how it is how sound impacts the mind and the body.
One particular area of this science of sound is that of “binaural beats.” Binaural beats were first theorized in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove but was first scientifically tested and proven in 1973 by Dr. Gerald Oster, a medical doctor and biophysicist, when he published his finding in a research paper called Auditory Beats in the Brain. The study opened up a whole new area of science as it showed how sound affects the way and how quickly the brain learns new information, mood control, sleep patterns and healing responses within the body, among many other items.
How Binaural Beats Influence The Brain and Body
To begin, let’s first look at what binaural beats exactly are. Dr. Suzanne Evans Morris, Ph.D., who is a speech-language pathologist, states:
“Research shows that different frequencies presented to each ear through stereo headphones… create a difference tone (or binaural beat) as the brain puts together the two tones it actually hears. Through EEG monitoring the difference tone is identified by a change in the electrical pattern produced by the brain. For example, frequencies of 200 Hz and 210 Hz produce a binaural beat frequency of 10 Hz (The difference in 210 Hz and 200 Hz is 10 Hz). Monitoring of the brain’s electricity (EEG) shows that the brain produces increased 10 Hz activity with equal frequency and amplitude of the wave form in both hemispheres of the brain (left and right hemisphere).”
The result of this is called “brainwave entrainment,” which in the examples above, entrain at 10 Hz. Any electrochemical activity of the brain results in the production of electromagnetic wave forms that can be objectively measured with sensitive equipment. Since brain waves change frequencies based on neural activity within the brain, and because neural activity is electrochemical, brain function can be modified by using sound and frequencies. Thus, certain frequencies/sound/music stimulate the brain to produce certain neurotransmitters like serotonin, the “feel good” chemical messenger that helps to reduce pain and increases the feelings of pleasure. More on that and other benefits a bit further down.
Researchers believe that different brain wave patterns are linked to the production in the brain of various neurochemicals associated with relaxation and stress release, increased learning and creativity, memory, and other desirable benefits. These neurochemicals include beta-endorphins, growth factors, gut peptides, acetylcholine, vasopressin, and serotonin.
Neuro-electric therapy engineer Dr. Margaret Patterson and Dr. Ifor Capel, showed in there experiments how a 10 Hz brainwave frequency (alpha brainwaves), increased the production of serotonin, to help ease pain and increase relaxation. They also showed how a 4 Hz brainwave frequency (theta brainwaves), increases production of catecholamines, which are important for memory and learning.
Dr. Capel explains this mechanism a bit further:
“As far as we can tell, each brain center generates impulses at a specific frequency based on the predominant neurotransmitter it secretes. In other words, the brain’s internal communication system—its language, is based on frequency… Presumably, when we send in waves of electrical energy at, say, 10 Hz, certain cells in the lower brain stem will respond because they normally fire within that frequency range.”
This is also exactly what Dr. Candice Pert has proved, who was a neuroscientist, biophysicist and pharmacologist, who researched at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and taught at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Dr. Pert was the first to prove that thoughts and emotions create a direct physiological effect on the body, thus demonstrating the long held beliefs of Mind-Body medicine. In other words, she proved that positive or negative thoughts and emotions are always either improving or declining our health, based on the chemicals that are released and transported to every cell. Dr. Pert had this to say about the effects of frequency in affecting the cells of body:
“Energy and vibration go all the way to the molecular level. We have 70 different receptors on the molecules and when vibration and frequency reaches that far they begin to vibrate [thus allowing the cells to be directly affected by vibration].…
Basically, receptors function as scanners. They cluster in cellular membranes, waiting for the right ligand (much smaller molecules than receptors), to come dancing along (diffusing) through the fluid surrounding each cell, and mount them – binding with them and (vibrating) them to turn them on and get them motivated to vibrate a message into the cell. Binding of the ligand to the receptor is likened to two voices, striking the same note and producing a vibration that rings a doorbell to open the doorway to the cell.”
In other words, for any message (vibrating ligand) to be received by a cell, the cell must vibrate at the same frequency as the ligand. Thus, when brainwaves are in the Alpha state, 8 to 14 Hz, that vibration or frequency is on par for more serotonin to be created, for example.
Everyday Applications of This Medicine
There are several different applications that this form of medicine can be used to beneficially impact our lives, which might include stress relief, pain relief, headaches relief, reversing and preventing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, reversing and preventing different cancers, increased memory, learning and recall, as well as better sleep cycles, addiction recovery, enhanced cognitive abilities due to synchronization of the left and right brain hemispheres, and enhanced overall well-being.
It’s known and proven that by exercising our brain, we have better mental and emotional health and increased intellectual functioning. Dr. Robert Cosgrove, Jr., Ph.D., M.D., says:
“[Binaural beats] have been observed by us to be an excellent neuro-pathway exerciser. As such we believe it has great potential for use in promoting optimal cerebral performance. Maintaining and improving cerebral performance throughout life delays for decades the deterioration of the brain traditionally associated with aging…”
As stated above, if one wants to relax and de-stress, listening to a binaural beat that produces alpha brainwaves (between 8 and 14 Hz), more serotonin will be produced as well as more endorphins. This would help to reduce physical and emotional pain, as well as increasing the feelings of relaxation and happiness. Listening to an alpha binaural beat can also help to increase learning abilities. Dr. Georgi Lozanov showed that students in the alpha state can learn as much as five times the amount of information in less time per day, and with greater long-term retention…