Music And The Brain Studies In The Neurology Of Music Brainwave Entrainment – Convergence of Science and Shamanism

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Brainwave Entrainment – Convergence of Science and Shamanism

Brainwave entrainment is a method of using audio or visual stimulus to cause the human brainwave pattern to synchronize with a desired frequency.  This is achieved through a natural phenomenon known as the ‘frequency following response’ whereby the brain naturally synchronizes with any external repeating pattern.  One of the most ancient examples of brainwave entrainment is the use of drum beats – a very simple method of creating a repeating stimulus.

Brainwave patterns within the brain are created by the electrical activity of billions of neurons.  This electrical activity can be measured as a frequency in Hertz (Hz) – much the same as any other electrical current or signal.  When measured, this brainwave frequency tells us much about the current mental, emotional and physical activity of any individual.  These frequencies are categorized into four main groups; Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta, each of which represents a very different mental state.

  • Beta:  Set between the frequency ranges of 14Hz to 30Hz.  Beta frequency designates an alert and active state of consciousness, and is the dominate frequency during waking hours.
  • Alpha:  Found during waking consciousness whilst relaxed or with closed eyes.  Alpha general represents slowed mental and / or visual activity.  The frequency range is 8Hz – 14Hz.
  • Theta:  4Hz – 8Hz is found during REM Sleep, theta is also an active frequency during meditative and trance states.  In addition, theta waves a frequently found in children and ebb off after 10 years and into adulthood.
  • Delta:  The frequency of deep sleep, at a frequency range of 1Hz – 4Hz.  Delta is not usually found whilst in the waking state, although is sometimes found during very deep meditations of those with extensive meditative experience.

Further categories of brainwave frequencies also exist, one of the most common and well known is the Gamma Frequency, which exists above Beta at a frequency of 31Hz+.  Little is scientifically known about the Gamma frequency, however some theories suggest it may be related to subjective perception.  Other more esoteric fields suggest that the Gamma frequency is related to a ‘Super Consciousness’, higher awareness or even transcendental states not unlike those found in Zen Buddhist meditations, and similar practices.

Another, slightly lesser known frequency is the Epsilon Frequency, which is found below 1Hz.  A frequency range of 0.5Hz has shown to provide some degree of pain relief.  As it is below the Delta frequency, individuals synchronizing with the Epsilon Frequency will more often than not fall asleep.

Public Interest

Brainwave entrainment first came into popular public interest during the 1970’s with the much used, but often ridiculed Mind Machines.  Essentially a pair of goggles containing embedded lights, which flickered at a pre-set rate.  The pace of flickering would determine the frequency, to which the user’s brainwaves would become synchronized simply by watching the lights.  In many ways this kick-started the consumerization of the various forms of self-hypnosis.

In 1978 Robert Monroe founded the Monroe Institute, which conducts research and provides training programs on altered states of consciousness.  Brainwave entrainment is used among the Monroe Institute’s methods, using the Hemi-Sync technology that Robert Monroe patented in 1975, which contains an evolution of the binaural beats technology.  Since then Hemi-Sync has become somewhat of an industry standard within the brainwave entrainment commercial marketplace.   The Hemi-Sync products are widely recognised and respected.

In more recent years, brainwave entrainment has taken alternative health circles by storm.  The Centerpointe Foundation, provide a program known as Holo-Sync designed to promote emotional healing and stability.

Another direction has been taken by Brainwave-Sync, who promotes a holistic ideology based upon traditional shamanic principles.  Their product range covers personal development and self-discovery, following the belief that inner strength and awareness bring about a deeper understanding of the world.


Over the past few decades a number of institutes and organizations have been involved in brainwave entrainment research.  By their very nature, the study of brainwaves form a vital component of neurology.  For example in a 1998, a study of brainwaves in rats was conducted by the McMaster University of Canada.   In 2005, David E. Stuckey – from the California Institute of Integral Studies – conducted field research on the Brazilian shaman vine known as Ayahuasca, an intoxicating hallucinogenic.  From this research he determined precise brainwave frequencies active during states of altered consciousness.

Brainwave entrainment research is also ongoing in the business world.  The Transparent Corporation could perhaps be considered a chief proponent of the brainwave entrainment methodology and is certainly an expert in the field.  Using both neurofeedback and biofeedback , The Transparent Corporation research fuels ongoing development of brainwave entrainment software, which continues to be used by medical professionals and therapists all over the world.

Everyday uses for Brainwave Entrainment

Outside of corporate and scientific interests, brainwave entrainment has found a growing market with the home user.  The technology affords the individual with many alternatives to existing therapies and practices.  All of the following are scientifically accepted uses for brainwave entrainment, and in many cases are often prescribed by medical practitioners and therapists.

  • Sleep Induction – a Cure for Insomnia:  Deep sleep generally occurs between a brainwave frequency of 1Hz and 4Hz.  By using audio, music or sound with an embedded frequency of this range, when synchronization occurs with the brainwave sleep will be induced.
  • Anxiety and Stress Relief:  Evidence suggests that high mental and emotional activity as found during moments of stress or anxiety prompt high levels of beta activity.  Entraining the brainwaves down to alpha or even theta, can have the effect of anxiety and stress relief. 
  • Relaxation:  Alpha brainwave frequencies are commonly found during relaxed and semi-relaxed states.  Naturally brainwave entrainment encoded into the alpha frequency often provides high levels of relaxation.
  • Meditation:  Theta frequencies and alpha brainwave frequencies are conducive towards very effective meditation.  Both slow the brainwave functions down to a level which ensures a relaxed physical and mental state.

Beyond Everyday Use: Self and Personal Development

Brainwave entrainment is often used to push the envelope beyond that of typical everyday experiences.  Most of these uses have also been confirmed within a scientific environment through the use of neurofeedback and biofeedback.

  • Hypnagogic States:   Hypnagogia is that brief state between wakefulness and sleep, where fleeting imagery forms before the eyes.  The theta frequency may be used to induce prolonged states of hypnagogia.
  • Hallucination:  Related to the states of hypnagogic, are states of hallucination.  Heightened theta and alpha activity are often recorded during such experiences.
  • Lucid Dreaming:  At one time thought to be a perceived trick of the subjective senses, lucid dreaming – being aware one is dreaming, and even consciously controlling dreams – is now accepted as fact and fairly well understood.  By entraining brainwaves into the delta frequency, sleep is induced.  Random spikes of theta activity may then be prompted during deep sleep – which in turn can lead to conscious dreaming.

Theoretical uses for Brainwave Entrainment

In many ways The Monroe Institute pioneered and the pushed the boundary of what is possible with brainwave entrainment.  Founder Robert Monroe was a very experienced individual with altered states of conscious, which he was able to attain through effort of will.  He documented some of these experiences in his book “Journeys out of the Body”.  Later the Monroe Institute facilities were used by the US Military for parapsychological training.

In the Far East, transcendental meditations are adopted by practices such as Yoga and Zen Buddhism amongst others.  Whilst in a transcendental state, one is lifted outside the boundaries of normal everyday consciousness.   This is achieved through years of personal discipline and extensive participation in meditative techniques.

Altered states of consciousness are also heavily involved with the shamanic practices of Brazil and Peru.  Most often these are used to gain deep personal insight, as well as attain mental and physical healing.

Brainwave entrainment has been used within all of these fields, to stimulate similar affects.  Out of Body Experiences, Chakra meditations, Kundalini meditations and even astral travel are some of the far reaching effects brainwave entrainment lays claim to.  There is indeed much anecdotal evidence to suggest that brainwave entrainment certainly is capable of these feats and more.

Shamanism, Consciousness and Brainwave Entrainment

Shamanism in one form or another extends back to the dawn of humankind.  The term shaman is much misunderstood; in essence a shaman is one whom is able to navigate through the subjective nature of their particular society in order to perceive the world in its natural state.  This is achieved by entering into altered states of consciousness, which are then used to help the participant see beyond their individual subjective belief system.  It is no stretch of the imagination to say that brainwave entrainment may also be used for this exact same purpose.

Shamanism in many cases, uses hallucinogenic means in order to enter altered states. However, this is not always necessarily the case; other shamanic cultures have used sound in order to stimulate altered states of consciousness.  References abound within modern literature and movies depicting such tribal scenes.  Brainwave entrainment is a modern evolution of this technique, which has been combined with scientific and neurological understanding.

Even in its base form, the objective of brainwave entrainment is to alter the state of one’s consciousness, be it from an anxious state altered into relaxed, or an awake alert state altered into sleep.  At its current outer limits, brainwave entrainment – through skilled use – can project the individual into deeply profound states of consciousness.

A convergence of sorts has occurred between the ancient shamanic practices and the modern scientific disciplines.  This convergence has gone largely unnoticed, yet it can be seen within the brainwave entrainment community, and the number of products that are designed to allow the user to enter states such as lucid dreaming, as well as visionary and hypnagogic experiences.  This convergence between science and the esoteric is perhaps marked best by the frequency of 528Hz which is used in the repair of DNA.  The very same frequency of 528Hz forms one of the six frequencies of the solfeggio scale.  Specifically, over one thousand years ago, this exact frequency was used by the Church for healing.

Brainwave Entrainment – a Modern Shaman Practice

Although brainwave entrainment is used extensively within established scientific and medical fields, its growth within the consumer sector has been primarily down to individuals involved with holistic and alternative living.  The growth in interest of subjects like meditation, lucid dreaming and alternative healing are a direct reflection of this.

Taken to the next step, brainwave entrainment may very well represent the arrival of shamanic practices within modern society, yet with a modern twist.  Each brainwave entrainment enthusiast or practitioner is willing to explore their consciousness for themselves.  Where as in tribal cultures a shaman was required to direct these experiences, in the modern world tools have been handed to the individual that enable them to explore their consciousness on their own terms.

This is a fact which has been recognised by Brainwave-Sync who continues to establish themselves as providers of brainwave entrainment aimed at individuals with holistic and alternative interests.

Brainwave entrainment in many ways represents the blending of technology with consciousness.  This could perhaps be viewed as the first time technology has reached such a state.  With correct use and skilled practice the brainwave entrainment technology is more than capable of leading an individual on a quest of personal, spiritual and self development.

From this perspective, such use of brainwave entrainment could represent a change within the very roots of society; the individual.  With even a small percentage of the population arriving at the possibility of full self awareness, along with the comprehension of their own subjective belief-systems, there is little to doubt about what brainwave entrainment has the power to achieve.  Traditional life changing methods have required extensive financial investment as well as substantial amounts of time.  Brainwave entrainment has changed this, allowing for ease of access to unique personal and spiritual experiences.

Brainwave entrainment provides a doorway into the consciousness, and does so in a deeply personal and creative manner; it opens up realms of the mind which are only just being scientifically discovered. 

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