Should we download binaural beats from YouTube

Why binaural beats are implausible

Influencing brain waves with beats?
from Leon Scharwächter,

Music undoubtedly influences us and our feelings. For some years now, however, a market for so-called binaural beats has developed, with the help of which certain emotional states or skills such as creativity, concentration and stress management in the brain can be specifically addressed and strengthened if you listen to them for a certain period of time via headphones.

How is a binaural beat structured?

The background to the whole idea is that brain waves vibrate at different frequencies depending on the activity. During sleep, the brain waves lie in the delta or theta range, depending on the sleep phase, i.e. between 3 and 8 Hz. During the day, when you concentrate on work, they oscillate around 30 Hz. The interesting question is whether, by stimulating the brain with precisely these frequencies, one can induce the brain waves to approach the desired frequencies and thus, for example, induce concentration and attention.

In order to be able to generate such frequencies in the brain at all, according to the manufacturers of binaural beats, dichotic beats are necessary - i.e. those that consist of two signals and are fed separately to the right and left ears via headphones. The frequency difference between the two signals is the binaural beat. For example, if you play a sine wave of 440 Hz to the right ear and a sine wave of 445 Hz to the left ear, there is a difference and thus a beat of 5 Hz, which the brain waves should approach.

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Playback via headphones is necessary because the processing of such beats takes place on the neural level and no longer in the ear. If you were to simply reproduce a beat with the desired frequency via loudspeakers, one ear would pick up both signals. In the cochlea of ​​the inner ear, the frequency-dependent hair cells are stimulated for both 440 Hz and 445 Hz and the beat is already evaluated here - still very far away from various areas of the brain. So it is a matter of only allowing a vibration to arise in the head through separate perception of the signals.

This video is a classic example of a binaural beat. For six hours, the beating created in the head should ensure greater ability to concentrate. So that it doesn't sound too monotonous, the vibration was equipped with ambient sounds:

As early as 1973, Gerald Oster described the process and creation of binaural beats in his article and was actually able to observe from nerve discharges that binaural beats are processed in other places in the brain than normal beats. A year later, Robert Allan Monroe assumed that one could change or synchronize brain waves with the help of binaural beats.

In recent years, EEG experiments have actually shown that in isolated cases the brain waves have approximated the external stimulation by the binaural beat and that it is therefore apparently possible to direct brain waves and thus states of consciousness.

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Why binaural beats don't work

There are, however, a number of reasons that disprove this. You have to look at how an EEG is used to measure the activity of the brain: the detection of the played binaural beats takes place in the upper olive core (midbrain) - this is where the beating of the separately perceived signals occurs - during EEG patterns, i.e. the recorded brain waves, on the other hand, are recorded on the cortex by means of an EEG. When the binaural beat spreads from the upper olive core to the cortex, a few milliseconds pass, so that a theoretical influence cannot be synchronous with the binaural beat at all. In general, with EEG measurements, the synchronous viewing of the brain waves with external audio sources is one of the main problems of such experiments and therefore extremely imprecise, so that the observations described above in the EEG experiments can be caused by chance.

Whether binaural or not, normal beats that already arise on the cochlea in the inner ear are passed on to the brain at the appropriate frequency. Since binaural beats are much weaker than normal beats, they would have to influence the brain waves much more violently - and that is not the case. In addition, binaural beats are always regular and run at a single frequency - in contrast to brain waves, which vibrate quite irregularly and can even appear at different frequencies at the same time, depending on the activity pattern.

So it turns out that it is not so easy to manipulate brain waves or to assign things like memory, creativity or the ability to learn to very specific frequencies. Instead, in the wake of the hype, binaural beats are often used to make money by selling CDs or music online that focus on pseudo-promoting a variety of skills.

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The 07/2016 edition of Sound & Recording is also about Seven Spaces Vol. 4 - a binaural sound experience!

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