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Using binaural beats to boost your brain

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Allan Eesmaa, CEO of  Synctuition, on the rise of mindfulness tecnology and why binaural beats may be the answer to the nation’s soaring stress levels.

The events of 2020 have undoubtedly taken their toll on millions of people in the UK. From dealing with economic recession to having one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world are just some of the devastating problems the nation has had to face.

With a Comprehensive Spending Review looming this Autumn, there are a rising number of calls on the government to invest in improving mental health services, before it becomes the second pandemic it must deal with.

The current economic crisis is set to increase existing health and social inequalities and likely worsen the mental health problems they bring and therefore, it is beyond obvious that now is the time to take action to avoid further mental health decline and provide help and support to those in need.

Government support aside however, advancements in technology have improved accessibility to self-help tools for people to improve their mental health independently.

Recently there has been a sharp rise in the use of mindfulness apps to help people cope with and reduce stress. The secret behind the effectiveness of the more advanced platforms on the market lies with a relatively unknown technology called binaural beats.

First discovered by Henry William Dove, a German researcher back in 1839, binaural beats are proven to have a positive effect on the chemical impulses in the brain, provoked by a specific alteration of sound frequency.

Fast forward a couple of centuries and there are huge advancements in the way they are being used to reduce stress, aid sleep and promote relaxation – things everyone could benefit from right now.

How it works:

Although it may sound like a subgenre of drum and bass music, binaural beats are a form of a soundwave that provides listeners with the ultimate relaxation experience.

A beat isn’t actually in fact a particular sound at all, but it’s the auditory effect perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves are presented to a listener (via a set of headphones) and played at a specifically engineered type of frequency.

The effect is that the brain simulates a third frequency that integrates them both together.

This is called a binaural beat and it stimulates the left and the right side of your brain to work together in sync and increases neural connections in the brain through the auditory cortex. In turn, it creates new synaptic connections between different regions of the brain.

It sounds complex, but research experiments have supported its claims and phase synchronisation has been shown to play a major role in improving cognitive processes.

Findings from a double-blind placebo-controlled study by McConnell in 2017 for example, demonstrate a role for binaural beats in facilitating access to more restorative states of post-exercise relaxation with subtle, yet somewhat durable psychophysiological effects. The results showed that 20 minutes of exposure to binaural beats significantly increased a known marker of parasympathetic activation that is driven by activity in regions of the anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex. The subjects reported being significantly more relaxed while listening to binaural beats than while listening to a placebo.

Other studies have shown listeners to experience reduced anxiety and stress, increased focus and concentration, fostered positive moods, promoted creativity, helped to manage pain and better sleeping.

Science has also discovered a strong correlation between transcendental mental states and binaural gamma waves – resulting in activating experiences of the past in the brain and revealing forgotten experiences stored in memory.

The amount of available experiences, at least the ones we use for decision making, is smaller than the actual set of stored (existing) experiences in memory and the revealed experiences can significantly increase the probability of the accuracy of correct intuitive decisions.

21st century beats

With all these benefits, it is no surprise that the creators of mindfulness apps are now harnessing the power of binaural beats.

Today, binaural beats are not only being used provide much needed relaxation for users, but the technology has even been upgraded to include the use of 3D sound to provide dimension and texture to the audio journey, featuring music and soundscapes from natural environments all over the world.

Here, 3D recording technology enables the listener to enjoy a spatially accurate soundscape through normal stereo headphones, providing the listener with a correct dimensional perception of the sound source in the recording field.

The broad mechanism of 3D sound perception consists of two parts: the detection of timing differences between the ears, and spectral differences between the ears.

It combines natural 3D sounds – those recorded spatially in wild nature without any synthetic components and 3D music include human produced sounds made using instrumental or vocal techniques, or sounds derived from other sources.

Helping ourselves

With progress made in technology – and increased availability (for example through mindfulness apps), it is evident that there is a growing role for binaural beats.

Mental health issues are on the rise and with the UK economy facing a “record level” of uncertainty about its future according to the governor of the Bank of England, we suspect to hear more in the news about higher levels of anxiety, affecting our emotions and sleep patterns in particular.

It is time to spread the word about binaural beats and how we can scientifically help ourselves – and others – naturally and through our love of music and the healing effects it offers.

Allan Eesmaa is CEO of mind-relaxing technology company Synctuition

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