Binaural Beats: Digital Drugs

The science behind binaural beats: What they are, what they are claimed to do, and what they can actually do.

Filed under Alternative Medicine, Consumer Ripoffs

Skeptoid #147
March 31, 2009
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
Also available in Russian
 

Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.

First of all, I'm sure you're curious right off the bat to hear what binaural beats sound like, so let's take a listen:

A binaureal beat is created by playing a different tone in each ear, and the interference pattern between the slightly differing frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. It's intended to be heard through headphones, so there's no cross-channel bleed across both ears. Listen to this, I'll play a simple binaural beat, and I'll slide the pan control back and forth from one ear to the other. You can see that there isn't actually any beat, it's just an acoustic illusion:

If you search the Internet for "binaural beats" you'll quickly find there's a whole industry built on the idea that listening to binaural beats can produce all kinds of desired effects in your brain. It can alter your mood, help you follow a diet or stop smoking, get you pumped up for a competition, calm you down, put you to sleep, enhance your memory, act as an aphrodisiac, cure headaches, and even balance your chakra. Binaural-Beats.com offers a $30 CD that they call the world's first "digital drug". They claim it can get you drunk without the side effects. I-Doser.com offers a range of music tracks that they say simulates a variety of actual pharmaceuticals, such as Demerol, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. Suffice it to say that no matter what superpower you're looking for, someone on the Internet sells a binaural beat audio file claimed to provide it.

You don't have to buy one, though. It's not too hard to make your own binaural beat, and free software is widely available to do just that. The one that I used to make that little sample is an open-source program called Gnaural, available on the Sourceforge web site. It's pretty easy to use, though it takes some practice before you can generate some of the really cool, more professional sounding beats. A binaural beat consists of two simple tones, and most people add that background pink noise. Nothing special.

But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.

Most of these web sites give some brief explanation of entrainment. The example you hear most often is that of Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens, who in 1665, hung two pendulum clocks next to each other on a wall. He noticed that the pendulums eventually matched each others' frequency, but always in antiphase, opposite to each other, as if canceling each other out. He'd try disturbing one or setting them in sync, but they'd always return to the same antiphase synchronization. Huygen's experience is widely touted on binaural beat websites as a demonstration of how systems can become spiritually connected through some energy field. However, they misunderstand what happened, and have not read the full story. Huygens also tried taking one clock off the wall, and as soon as they were no longer physically connected to one another via the actual wall, the effect disappeared. It was not the proximity of the clocks to one another that created the entrainment; it was their physical, mechanical connection to one another. As each pendulum swung it imparted an infinitesimal equal and opposite reaction to the wall itself. With two clocks on the wall, the system naturally sought the lowest energy level, according to the laws of thermodynamics; and both pendulums would thus swing exactly counter to each other, minimizing the system's total energy.

So to summarize their claim, they're saying that entrainment means that a binaural beat will cause your brain's electroencephalogram to match the pattern of the phantom beat. Well, if it did, entrainment certainly doesn't apply and would not be part of the equation, so we can scratch that off the list. But it doesn't make the claimed observation wrong. We do know that certain electroencephalogram waveforms are often associated with certain kinds of activity. For example, physical activity or REM sleep often produces an electroencephalogram with a sine wave of between 4 and 8 Hz, which we term a theta pattern. Waking relaxation with eyes closed often produces a pattern from 8 to 12 Hz, which is called an alpha pattern. There are only a few characterized patterns, and pretty general descriptions of what kinds of activities go with them. The claim made by the binaural beat sellers depends on much more granular and specific matches. For example, the claim that a binaural beat with a frequency of X produces the same effect in your brain as Vicodin is wholly implausible. Such claims presume that we know the exact frequency of the electroencephalogram in each of these desired conditions, and the fact is that brain waves don't work that way. It is wholly and absolutely implausible to say that desired brain condition X will occur if we get your EEG to read exactly X Hz.

Not only that, binaural beats presume that brain waves work in the opposite way that they do. Certain brain states produce certain brain waves; brain waves don't produce brain states. You just don't turn a dial to 6.5 Hz and induce instant happiness.

And so, while the claimed science behind binaural beats is unfounded, this doesn't mean that the effect isn't real and simply unexplained. Maybe you can listen to a certain binaural beat and induce a desired state, but for reasons we don't yet understand. So let's take a look at the research, and see if such an effect has actually been observed.

A 2008 study at Hofstra University played two different binaural beats and a control sound (a babbling brook) to patients with high blood pressure. There was no difference between the groups. In one small study from Japan that was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2006, they played various binaural beats to nine subjects, and observed the resulting EEGs. They found great variability in the results. Their conclusion was that listening to binaural beats can produce activity on the human cerebral cortex, however the cause was more likely a conscious auditory reaction and was not correlated to the frequency of the binaural beat. However, a 2005 study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that they were able to induce a desired frequency in the EEG matching the phantom beat frequency encoded in a binaural beat, however this was with a single subject and was neither blinded nor controlled.

But we don't need any studies to tell us that different people can listen to different kinds of music and be affected. A lot of people who work out have a workout playlist on their iPod that keeps them energized. Some people listen to certain music to help them fall asleep. The Muzak company has built an industry on relaxing music that will keep people in the mood to shop. Music does affect our mood, and so we already have every reason to expect binaural beat recordings to produce the same effect. Different people may find certain binaural beats to be relaxing or energizing. But, we've never found any reliable indication that a binaural beat's connection to our brain is any deeper or more meaningful than any other music track. We do know for a reasonable certainty that specific claims made by most sellers of binaural beats are not credible, and that there is no reason to think that the effect they're claimed to produce will work for you.

Well, except for one reason: The power of suggestion. If I give you a music track and tell you that it will cure your headache, you're more likely to report that it cured your headache than you are to say "Well it didn't effect my headache, but it made my short-term memory better." An interesting experiment would be to buy a binaural track claimed to induce drunkenness, for example; play it for five friends without telling them the claim, and then ask how it made each of them feel. Give them multiple choices to select from. Chances are they're going to respond all over the map. If you have a friend who is a believer in binaural beats, I suggest going ahead and setting up this little test.

$2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

So, in summary, binaural beats certainly do not work the way the sellers claim, but there's no reason to think they're any less effective than any other music track you might listen to that effects you in a way you like. If they make you sleepy (like they all do for me), use them to go to sleep. If they relax you or get you amped, use them for that. But don't expect them to be any more effective than regular music. If someone you know claims that they are, put them to the test, and bust the myth.

 

Brian Dunning

© 2009 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Adams, C. "Can Binaural Beats Improve Your Mood?" The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc., 30 Jul. 2010. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2949/can-binaural-beats-improve-your-mood>

Carter, C. "Healthcare performance and the effects of the binaural beats on human blood pressure and heart rate." Journal of Hospital Marketing and Public Relations. 1 Aug. 2008, Volume 18, Number 2: 213-219.

Karino, S., Yumoto, M., Itoh, K., Uno, A., Yamakawa, K., Sekimoto, S., Kaga, K. "Neuromagnetic responses to binaural beat in human cerebral cortex." Journal of Neurophysiology. 21 Jun. 2006, Volume 96, Number 4: 1927-38.

Padmanabhan, R., Hildreth, A.J., Laws, D. "A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery." Anaesthesia. 7 Jul. 2005, Volume 60, Number 9: 874-877.

Pratt H., Starr A., Michalewski H.J., Dimitrijevic A., Bleich N., Mittelman N. "Cortical evoked potentials to an auditory illusion: Binaural beats." Clinical Neurophysiology. 1 Aug. 2009, 120, 8: 1514-1524.

Schwarz, D.W., Taylor, P. "Human auditory steady state responses to binaural and monaural beats." Clinical Neurophysiology. 1 Mar. 2005, Volume 113, Number 3: 658-668.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Binaural Beats: Digital Drugs." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 31 Mar 2009. Web. 24 Jul 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4147>

Discuss!

Good episode. There's a small typo in the transcript just after the first sound file. It says "binaureal" instead of "binaural."

B., U.S.A.
March 31, 2009 1:39pm

Nice article, although there are a handful of studies that seems to point to the fact that binaural beats can in certain circumstances reduce anxiety and improve attention.

Jack Jones, Tampa
March 31, 2009 11:01pm

This was hilarious. Anybody with a rudimentary training in music would know that the so called "beats" occur when two pitches are not in tune. I would encourage anyone wanting to listen to these to go to a middle school band concert.

Scott, Chicago
April 1, 2009 7:00am

Excellent episode as usual Brian.
Consise, to the point and best of all, likely to cause apoplexy in the proponents of these so called "audiometric drugs".

Pedro B, Winnipeg Canada
April 1, 2009 8:25am

I'll skip the treatment thank you.

The sample alone was annoying.

Robert Jase, New Britain, CT
April 2, 2009 6:21am

You'd skip the treatment just because Brian's sample was annoying? Even if it worked?

Max, Boston, MA
April 2, 2009 9:26am

thanks brian.

david erardi, milford,ma
April 2, 2009 12:03pm

"Pzizz" is a big one. Binaural naps. I think power-of-suggestion, general sleepiness, and repetitive behavior make up 99% of Pzizz's success.

Sam, Destin, FL
April 5, 2009 12:44am

While I was listening to this podcast, I was reminded of tuning my guitar. Why, do you ask? When using harmonic notes to tune guitars, they create the same pulsation when the strings are slightly out of tune. When the pulsation stops, you're strings are tuned together.

Mark, San Diego, CA
April 7, 2009 5:40pm

Calling the phantom beat an illusion is a bit of an overstretch. Illusion would be a psychoacoustic effect, but in fact it is a well known acoustic phenomena - used for example to tune the instruments, as Mark has noticed.

Because the waves are identical, but have slightly different frequencies they instantly go out of phase with each other and this creates something called a comb filter. The relative phase of the signals will change with each period and thus the comb filter will be moving - an effect called a phaser in music. Now on complex signals that would create some weird effects, but because the signals are simple sine waves the effect is just a simple vibrato - or volume vibrations in layman's terms. The same effect could be achieved by down mixing the both channels to a single mono channel - the binaural beats simply use the brain as the mixer. It can also be achieved through speakers, although poor acoustic properties of most rooms will frequently spoil the effect.

Tomek, Warsaw
April 9, 2009 7:45am

This clearly demonstrates what I have found true for years now - that tuning my bass before a show gives me an energized feeling!

What was that about the power of suggestion?

Mike, Detroit
April 9, 2009 10:49am

I am an elementary music teacher and just spent the last hour tuning the guitars in my class. I guess I will be imortal because those beats were all over the place.

Michael, St. Louis, MO
April 9, 2009 1:08pm

I figured you'd get a lot of comments from musicians. Personally I find 2 sine waves slightly out of tube with some pink noise irritating. Perhaps lingering effects of 10 years teaching guitar. It bothered my roommates cats, too.

Sean, Milwaukee, WI
April 12, 2009 1:24pm

Hi There,

I have used this products.

The one I used is designed to get you to a meditative state quicker than the usual methods. I.e. Theta brainwaves but without the hard work and dedication that meditation takes. In consumer society, you can see why there would be a demand for such a product.

Whilst I cannot show any evidence of what happens to brainwaves, I can say that listening to it is much like being hypnotist (which I have been several times). Your body goes to sleep, feel like you have a big weight on you. Your heart slows down as does your mind. And your thoughts wonder, much as they do when you meditate.

I can therefore recommend them as a meditation aid, which can help with such things as depressoin, anxiety, insomnia etc.

I'd be interested in seeing brainscans to see exactly what happens to the brain during the use of these kinds of recordings..

Nick, London
April 14, 2009 3:58am

Brian, your comment about pendulums synchronizing reminded me of several YouTube videos that demonstrate the effect you're talking about extremely well. Here are the links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMVxVbCIPjg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yysnkY4WHyM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlYIyKic3w8

Gary, Atlanta
April 17, 2009 6:14am

Heh, when I started listening to the podcast I happened to be listening with one headphone on. I was initially confused at what was so special about the sound.

Coleman Mulkerin, Sayre, PA
April 27, 2009 9:47pm

A question about the ethics of this - I have a friend who uses i-doser a lot and has even given up other recreational drugs using i-doser instead of pot or LSD. I was going to talk to her about the fact that it's probably a placebo-kind of self-hypnosis thing, an not the sound, but what if by discussing that with her I take away how effective it is for her.

I haven't discussed it with her yet

Jon, Greensboro, NC
May 17, 2009 11:20am

Great article. It clearly explains exactly what binaural beats are. I hope that others read this information so that they can truly learn the great impact that binaural beats could have on their lives.

Aaron, Atlanta
June 28, 2009 12:02am

To the musicians who say this is just the same as their experiences tuning instruments:

In tuning situations, the beats are physically real. They exist in the sound waves as the two vibrations overlap; they can be seen in the sounds if you record and display the waveform.

In the case of binaural beats, however, it is the contention of the proponents of binaural beats that the sounds are acoustically isolated from one another: one in the left headphone, the other in the right. There is no actual "beat", because the two frequencies don't physically overlap. The perception of beats is generated by the brain processing the two signals.

If that is true, binaural beats would be an illusion, in that you are perceiving something (beats) that does not physically exist.

However, it is possible that bone conduction or some other physical coupling between the two headphones generates the beats before they are translated to nerve impulses. Given what we know about the cochlea and the ear-to-nerve translation of sound, I actually think this is more plausible than the brain reconstructing an illusion of beats.

Timothy Mills, Edinburgh, UK
July 20, 2009 2:07am

I've been working with binaural beats for a little over a year now...I would agree that a lot of the claims are over the top. I wouldn't make the claim that binaural beats instantly switch your brain to happiness. Even in physics, entrainment doesn't work that way. I would suggest that the meditative & relaxing nature of some of the extra sounds used creates a state where brainwaves might, after some time, adjust to the frequencies suggested by the particular beat being produced. Relaxation itself is a wonderful tonic for many physical problems.

I also agree with the previous post about how the brain percieves these beats. I've worked as a piano tuner for many years and noted that during a tuning, I could stay focused on a task while my mind moved to a very relaxed and creative state. So when I began using binaural beats, I wanted to recreate that state of mind that I had during a piano tuning. It was easy to do.

There is something to binaural entrainment but I think it to be far more complex than we know. As for I-dosing...eh not what I'm looking for.

Mitch, Cincinnati
August 22, 2009 4:26am

Maybe the big advantage of binaural beats over regular music , is that you can easily forget them , and hence it's easier to listen them again and again. I can listen to particular music to induce a particular state of mind, but if I play it one hour for each days, I will probably get enough of it.
I'd say, that on contrary that "binaural beats", have no taste just like water, and if you manage to get a particular state of mind with one of them, it might be easier to use systematically. Personally I love to hear ambient sound like rain, or wind, it have a relaxing effect on me (either there's a binaural beat effect on it or not).

mehdi, morrocco
September 19, 2009 10:42am

I teach the beat frenquency in my Physics class in high school and I would like to thank you for that analysis. It was a great tool for me to discuss about those claims with my students.

Thank you!

Ebo0763, Canada
September 30, 2009 8:17am

BTW, I gave Skeptoid full credit for this information and I also gave the link to my students.

Ebo0763, Canada
September 30, 2009 1:45pm

i dont know about you, but i cant close my eyes and listen to that for more then 5 seconds
it sounds creepy!

Jacob, Mustang,OK
September 30, 2009 11:52pm

I have been debating about buying certain type of programs to improve brain memory and etc, but have been skeptical and reluctant to pay the price for a program such as holosync, this post really clarifies things for me, as I pointed out the power of suggestion is probably working tool & but the beats with meditation probably don't hurt anything.

Great post

Jon, Delphos, OH
December 4, 2009 8:36am

I invested in the Holosync system and can only encourage you not waste your money. There are more affordable ambient sound tracks with binaural beats on ITunes, without all the hype. Mr. Harris is a wealthy salesman and you will never hear the end of his offers. I’ve heard him contradict himself on more than one occasion, so steer clear.

Do the ambient sounds and binaural beats work? Well, Mr. Harris promises you will be meditating like a Zen Monk and being neither a Zen Monk nor qualified Scientists I can’t honestly say that is what happens. They did help me relax and I slept like a baby, and because a good night’s sleep will help anyone I still use them when needed. So they worked for me, though not as he said they would.

I would also like to mention that many of the folks who make these sound tracks warn folks with epilepsy not to use them. I have had epilepsy all my life and they never bothered me once. Now had I tried one of the systems with the flashing lights then that may have bothered me a great deal but just the binaural beats did not.

They also make various different tracks that target issues such as, wealth, health, sleep etc. I found that if you are only listening to the sound tracks and not the guided meditations then it doesn’t matter what they claim to be targeting. I’ve tried them all and believe me, I’m neither rich, famous or twenty years younger than when I started.

It all needs additional research by qualified professionals.

Cherie, Monterey, Ca
December 12, 2009 4:52pm

"Certain brain states produce certain brain waves; brain waves don't produce brain states."

I find this statement bothersome -- not the whole article or the argument being made, but just this statement :)

The brain produces a certain EEG pattern when it's in a certain state. If (IF!) you can induce the same brain activity (measured as "waves"), you'd have the same state.

The brain is the brain. If it's in a state, it's in that state. Your, "which comes first, the waves or the state," statement sounds like you're saying you can't induce a brain-state, which the rest of your argument doesn't support (music induces a state).

Strobes are used to induce a state of brain activity to help diagnose epilepsy. Which came first, the "wave" or the "state?"

The claims of these binaural charlatans are bullshit, this is clear, but I just had probs with this one statement in the midst of your case.

cv, seattle
December 29, 2009 5:50pm

Recently, one of the developers selling a binaural beats iPhone/iPod app set it to Free for a while. Remembering this episode, I downloaded it. Finally today I remembered it, and am trying it out even as I type this comment.

After nearly an hour of listening, some times with the binaural beat and sometimes without, I can't really tell whether or not the beats help. However, the new age sound/music used as the primary sound for masking the beat really is relaxing. I have no sensation that the "Deep Sleep" beat, the "Active Relaxation" beat, nor the "Deep Relaxtion" beat are making me sleepy or relaxed. The music is soothing though, and work sure is making me feel like taking a nap. But work always does that to me - I blame the giant life-force sucking machine they clearly have functioning underneath the office.

Randy, Memphis, TN
February 2, 2010 8:07am

Interesting. I've been using something called Hemi-Sync for guided meditation, and have achieved very rapid success where previously I was met with failure.

I can't figure out if this is because of the power of suggestion (and my subsequent increased focus) or if these beats actually work. I definitely find it easier to reach altered states of consciousness while the tones are playing in my ears.

I guess I took it for granted that they were doing empirical studies on this stuff since it's been around for a while.

Phil B, New York City
February 2, 2010 11:52am

As I understood the left and right brain lobes try to resonate to the binaural frequency which produces the corresponding state. I also feel that we must create a suitable environment for this to work. As an example, one cannot be watching a MMA fight while using Alpha state binaural unless the energy level of the frequency can literally override the energy level produced by brain. I recently bought the Insight + focus CDs from Dr. Mercola's website and may be inform this forum later what my results are.
Regards

Gandhi, Vancouver
February 7, 2010 1:21pm

I've noticed a similar artefact before when I've tried to force myself to focus on two contrasting sensory inputs, but it was never as obvious as this is. With a little effort I got my vision to do a similar kind of skipping with the old faces-or-vase picture. Instead of seeing one or the other, try to perceive both at the same time. Your vision will skip back and forth between the two states.

This seems to be further evidence that the brain can change focus rapidly but only concentrate on one thing at a time.

John, Canada
February 9, 2010 6:51pm

The sample was annoying. I'll throw binaural beats into the category of therapies that don't work on me: Reiki healing, massage therapy, past life regression therapy, mega-vitamin overdosing, and wheatgrass juice. I guess I'm not open-minded enough.

Abby, Austin, TX
February 22, 2010 6:41pm

Big fan of the show! The lucidity is astounding. I just listened to the episode, and did a little research on binaural beats myself. Strangely I found a very credible source supporting binaural beats.

It's from Physiology and Behavior, Vol 63, No. 2: pages 249-252, 1998.

There's also an online copy of it:
http://prosopopeia.sics.se/style/pdf/binauralbeats.pdf

Please read it! I'd love to know whether this source is as real as the references and researchers on it seem.

My email is fluffypotato@msn.com if someone or Mr Dunning can critically analyze this.
Thanks!

Kevin G, Perth, WA
May 30, 2010 6:20am

I love listening to binaural music, not just the tone you have here but actual music. It is relaxing and seems to put me in a trance like state.

I believe it's because the music keeps me from overthinking. My brain is focused on the music so my mind and body are able to relax. Does that make sense?

I also use it when people snore so I can sleep. The snoring blends in with the music so it's not so jarring. But I have to use headphones to get the full effect.

Works great with a relaxation massage as well.

Akaara, Portsmouth, NH
June 23, 2010 7:18am

I have listened to so many of these so called "binaural" beats and what I can say is listening to my favorite music had a much better effect on my mood than this crap. I guess if some people want to believe this stuff works than I guess in a sense it will for them (sounds more like a placebo effect to me). I can't understand what the big thing is about this nonsense, just another scam to take people's hard earned money. I guess to each their own for what works for them. I can't believe I wasted my money on this nonsense. The sound of my air conditioner running did more to relax me.

James, rural PA
June 25, 2010 4:13am

Just wanted to point out the story on the Australian New Limited website news.com.au
The story is titled "iDosing and digital drugs - can your kids really get high without narcotics?"
apparently...
* Kids caught "iDosing" at high school
* I-Doser owner urges caution for us1ers
* User saw "paint peeling off walls".
additionally
"'iDosing' can be seen as a gateway drug..."

It's sensationally sickening!

Thanks for the great work Brian!

Matt Simon, Adelaide, Austrlia
July 15, 2010 6:47pm

"The sound of my air conditioner running did more to relax me."

haha very true :)

Edgaras, Vilnius
July 21, 2010 8:00am

The first binaural beat I ever tried was one by iDoser for Marijuana. I quite honestly felt stoned. Things were seriously weird. Time had slowed down... everything.

That was 2 years ago.

Not one binaural beat has worked on me since. I'm pretty sure that first experience was just placebo/power of suggestion.

Luckily, I have probably tens of thousands of dollars worth of iDosers, but I didn't pay one cent, and I can play them as many times as I want (I LOVE torrenting :D). I also have a few sleep aids that have thus far failed, as well.

They really are crap. Cute for the novelty, but that's about it.

Nathan, Boca Raton, FL
July 22, 2010 1:49pm

I've been using free binaural beat downloads for a few months now, to improve mental concentration and alertness.

No great benefits, but I do find that I'm slightly more physically relaxed, yet mentally awake after 10-15 minutes listening.

I find the most effective ones are those which claim to boost IQ. These don't seem to actually raise IQ but they do seem to be quite mentally refreshing. Ironically the binaural beats tracks that claim to be specifically for ADHD actually make me sleepy.

Mike, New Zealand
August 12, 2010 6:13pm

I've been using free binaural beat downloads for a long time, to help me with meditation, but it was hard to find the one I can enjoy for a long time. Now I use the one from www.astrobinaural.com site with waves background sound and it helps a lot. I can realx and my mind doesn't wonder of so easy. It really helps.

mark, Italy
September 17, 2010 5:16am

This article is good, but it doesn't consider that the humming combined with ocean waves and such do actually produce almost like a meditation like effect in the person -- it almost eventually becomes relaxing or whatever else you want it to be.

I'm a Neuroscience Major and a professional lawyer and I'd be the first to rule out a placebo effect, but I have been using these beats simply to listen to and relax (ONLY to relax, not anything else like wake up, get high, etc. etc.) because it's a constant sound that helps to take your mind off of things.

Most people with anxiety disorders simply need to be coached through a breathing exercise, for instance. The symptoms are mostly a result of excitement/agitation combined with, perhaps, a chemical imbalance.

Nick, NYC
November 27, 2010 4:08am

Dammit, I am no such beast at all and I can tell you, from all the thousands of aggro surfers I have met over the years (out the surf vying and hassling) I SUUUUUURE wished they could hum.

Only said to the guys the other day, can you hum so we can catch waves in turn.

Schtick to lawyering. You are a natural,

Henk van der Gaast, Sydney
December 16, 2010 7:50am

these (beats) dont work!!! i used the study aid one to help with study, it got me to work but i didnt really learn anything, i failed my exams!!! FAKE FAKE!! this stuff is a load of bull haha dont try it for anything but relaxing =)

sipho, south africa
December 21, 2010 12:21am

I've been using a binaural beats app for the past week. I had no real 'faith' in it, nor did I expect it to fail.
What I have noticed:

Sleep: I have been falling asleep fasting, sleeping deeper, and dreaming more vividly while listening to beats.

Concentration/Energy: No huge effect. Seems to mildly help, but will not 'fix' my energy when I'm really tired or extremely bored at work.

Yes this may have to do with placebo effect, or just that the 'white noise' can be soothing and relaxing. But regardless of the reason, I'll continue using the beats to sleep as it seems to help.

One question about the well-written article. I'm a bit confused about "...they're saying that entrainment means that a binaural beat will cause your brain's electroencephalogram to match the pattern of the phantom beat. Well, if it did, entrainment certainly doesn't apply and would not be part of the equation, so we can scratch that off the list."

Why doesn't entrainment apply?? I understand the experiment with the clocks, they synched because of the vibrations in the wall. But I don't see that this automatically negates the idea of brainwave entrainment due two auditory beats.

Jen, California
December 21, 2010 12:55pm

I first used binaural beats when I went hypothyroid and could not stay awake for more than 3-4 hours. I was looking for meditation audios that would help me take a break every few hours because I had a toddler and taking a nap wasn't an option. I could, however, ask my neighbor (who had 3 little kids of her own) to watch my little one for a few minutes twice a day.

I'd fall into a deep sleep for 30 minutes and when I awoke, I would be ok for another few hours. Then I would use the audio again. I did this for about 4 or 5 months, and then became euthyroid and stopped using the audio bc I didn't have that constant sleepiness.

About 3 years went by and I was going through a very stressful divorce and I thought I'd try the audio again, this time I wanted to see if they would relax me without making me go to sleep. It took about two weeks of using the audio before I was able to stay awake throughout the 30 minutes. Once the audio was over, I'd feel peaceful and yet full of energy.

At that point, the "directions" were that once you were able to stay awake listening to the audio, you should then be able to get yourself to that relaxed state without the audio, thereby lowering your brain wave pattern somehow at your command.

I stopped using the audio at that point and can now put myself in an Alpha state with a 30 second countdown, which I do 2x a day.

I believe that something happens to you with the beats bc I've used them for two very different reasons and it worked.

Shanda, New Orleans
December 28, 2010 9:42pm

There's a couple of studies that Brian didn't cover which appear to be indicate actual effects:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/183/4127/871

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9384(97)00436-8

Gabriel Devenyi, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
January 12, 2011 9:50am

This is really a poorly researched article. Anybody can cherry pick sources to find the ones that show no promise and some of the ones you are looking at are not worthy of being called studies. BBs have years of scientific research and experimentation up until the mid-1990s when the altered consciousness-mysticism people seemed to feel that was where they belonged. Since then they have not even fought a good battle for a place in alternate medicine. You need to do a little more reading. In 2008 Huang and Charyton did a review of literature that looked only at psychologic measures, to see if it really was able to sustain its reputation. Results were entirely favorable, and since then the question has been: where has it gone. The rather obvious answer is places like this new age bazaar: Unexplainable Store: binaural beats. In an issue of Reviewcritical in 2010 they look at its growth: http://www.reviewcritical.com/reviews/unexplainable-store-binaural-beats
This calls to mind the proverbial snake oil salesman, only far more dangerous, with astral projection, shaman location and other occultic phenomena most parents would rather have their children stay away from. Yes, this is an extreme example, but its high traffic makes it clear why serious medical practicioners might not give BB a look past on trip to google.

So you are both right and wrong.

It is a hype. But it is also science and it should not be a hype. It should be helping.

Chris Miller, Lansing MI
January 29, 2011 12:16pm

The first sample on the page made me feel very energized...Because it freaked me out with feelings of some evil force screaming into the room! I probably watch too many horror movies.

Jenny C, Vancouver BC
February 11, 2011 12:39am

I've tried a few of them, most just do kinda put you to sleep, and I think thats really just because you're sitting there for 30 minutes waiting for something to happen. Most people who sit still for 30 minutes will fall asleep, regardless of what they're listening to.
I had read a review of this one on the website called "Stairway To Heaven." Stairway claimed to relax you and put you in a "heavenly" state of mind. A religious/spiritual experience kind of state. I never tried it.
Then, I found a review about one called "Gates Of Hades" which is a prototype (never "officially" released) supposed to do the opposite effect. I am a director, and I work on mainly horror films, so I poked around, and I found this file. The first 20 minutes were probably the most relaxing 20 minutes I've ever felt from one of these beats. Then, in a matter of seconds, the frequency changes and rises higher, quickly. About 4 seconds after the frequency changed, I jumped and literally threw the headphones across the room. If I could describe in words what the feeling of true, pure emotional fear was.. I would. This got my heart racing, I was sweating and breathing heavily. In those 4 seconds, I felt true impending doom and utter hopelessness. It was like staring into the abyss, and the abyss stared back. I actually enjoyed the feeling (like I said, I make horror movies, so I was hoping for that effect), but I haven't tried it again.
Say what you want about the others, but Gates Of Hades is no joke

M. Serrano, NY
February 14, 2011 9:39am

To download the Idoser on your computer so you can pay $$ for their doses is stupid. 1) The idoser player will screw up your CPU(it uses up quite a lot of RAM), 2) If you uninstall it will try to remove a DLL file in Windows which will screw your computer, 3) most of the code is simple for I doser, 4) In Canada it is LEGAL to download the .drg files in torrent form, say off of Pirate Bay and then convert them to .sbg at Khattams blog, 5) you can get the Sbagen software free made by Jim Peters and make your own sounds which will probably do more than the I doser nonsense.

Skeptical? Get Sbagen, then go to healing beats forum.com, then download the .sbg files I have on there-all for free(this isnt an ad) so you can decide for yourself.

In any case, dont spend money on Idoser. They're a bunch of highschoolers trying to act like wanna be neurologists.

Duck Dong, Calgary, AB, CANADA
March 1, 2011 3:52pm

I tried a number of them for over a year. The best that happened was I took an entire hour for myself, daily. I will say that after a year I became overly sensitive to sounds and vibrations and had to quit.

They obviously do something but I'm not sure the folks selling these CDs know what they are doing. I would ask a neurologist before playing around with your brain waves, especially if you a seizure disorder.

Cherie, Monterey
March 26, 2011 6:46pm

There haven't been any studies into long term use of binaural beats, have there? Most of this I assume is just exposing people to them for a short period of time; but if you listened every day it might have a more powerful cumulative effect.

James, London
April 25, 2011 11:46pm

There have been many studies on the effect, where some of them may be found here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/brainwaves/2006/research.html

Also a book which has a chapter on it are on the way from Routledge: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415890595/

Long time use has been recorded in an article with learning disabled boys, who increased their IQ as a result of it: http://www.stanford.edu/group/brainwaves/2006/Russell-LearningDisabilities.pdf

Christoffer, Norway
April 27, 2011 4:05pm

Doesnt anyone have that Pearl Jam Album? Do you think they write these catchy songs because the titles sound good.

Pearl Jam, Skepticism with a drive!

Henk van der Gaast, Sydney
May 21, 2011 6:45pm

I listened to a free one last night before I went to bed for 15 minutes. I had the most amazing, vivid, and memorable dreams I have ever had. I have smoked and drank tincture of mugwort for lucid dreaming and that didn't even come close to this. I can still remember most of my dream (3 separate dreams all interconnected, very long, and very vivid and realistic) now several hours after I have been awake. I didn't think it was going to do anything when I fell asleep but right after the music stopped I became drowsy and fell right into dreaming. It was pretty incredible and these things are definitely worth studying. I wonder if they can be used to induce suggestive states in which you could be hypnotized. I'd be careful with these, there the real deal.

Jake, USA
June 12, 2011 5:26am

So how we could tell that is not just the vivid dreams you expected to remember rather than anything the music did?

Tom H, Kent
June 12, 2011 10:45am

Even if it does have a desired effect, it doesn't necessarily have to be that you dreamt more vividly. This could induce your memory to keep the images in a clearer fashion, as nobody is absolutely sure what dreaming truly is in its fullest form. You also can't go straight into dreaming. The average person sleeps on 8 minute cycles of flat dreams to REM dreams that are also monitored with sine waves. You have to start out flat though. This is really cool though. I'm trying to understand this to put it in the background of my music to make people feel good when they listen to it so it becomes more popular. I figure if it's subtle enough the subconscience should still pick something up if this isn't just something of suggestion.

Kyle, Long Island
June 22, 2011 3:26pm

I'm a sound engineer with a PhD in sound science. This article is a bit too much critical and the author shows no knowledge from direct experience on how the sound works and its interaction with matter and brainwaves. And then the most reliable studies where not even cited or just taken in consideration, like those of Heinrich Wilhelm Dove and Gerald Oster for example, both published on the Scientific American... not on a tabloid. There are thousands of studies around made by PhDs, not by charlatans...

The variability depends on HOW the multilayered beats tracks are mixed together by an engineer. Something that a "medic" can't understand so he can't do any good job in doing that.

Sound is a frontier, something that have to be studied very deeply because it can change the basic structure of matter... and WE ARE MATTER. I also seen fall down many and many "science pillars" in laboratory... Binaural Beats, if rigorously fine modulated (so something you can't make with an 'open source software' at home) CAN "lock" brainwaves and drive them wherever you need them to go. Alpha? Theta? Delta or even Gamma? You can.

So take an EEG, a good sound engineer, and explore yourself. A skeptic isn't necessary a "science" defender. Science can stand very good even without the "gold business" of skepticism. Science just for those that are curious to understand how the things works, not for those who want's just write 'skeptic crap' citing some studies without going deep into the subject

Marco Capelli, Rome
July 20, 2011 11:13am

Thank you, Marco Capelli. Because of your background, I found your response very helpful. I hope that sound is studied more & that govt agencies start supporting those studies. Very interesting. If you ever write more on the subject, I would love to read.
Pls email any links to: hue2hold(at)gmail(dot)com
Mahalo from Hawaii.

Starr B, Makawao, Hawaii
July 23, 2011 11:50am

The author of this article claims that regular music has any effect on a person citing examples such as a workout playlist on an MP3 player keeping the training individual energized. This is not so, it's actually energy generated from an electrochemical gradient in your mitochondrian that keeps you energized during your workout. listening to some music may cause release of endorphins and the like which may make you feel like you have more energy than you really do but the music itself does not generate any energy that is useable by your body. Also the author was very quick to dismiss any result of brain activity brought on by binaural beats as just a result of listening to something, as if to say that is the normal result of listening, no matter what you are listening to.
I can't say for sure if these work but my girlfriend got me into them and I have noticed small changes. I am currently studying electrical engineering and physics and shortly after I started meditating to these beats I found that I could recall info a little better. Also I could think clearly, my lab work and design studios have shown improvement. My study habits have always been the same, but I went from 3.8 to 4.0 GPA. Like I said not a huge difference. I can't attribute the increase to the beats, but I never changed anything in my routine except the beats so I can't dismiss the possibility either. Maybe I'll see if the neuroscience people will do a lab on it, I'll get back to you.

Ryan Hunt, London, Ontario
August 11, 2011 9:18pm

I really find it difficult to believe this article. Im no sound engineer, but I firmly believe that there is more to binaural beats than just two wave-lengths projected through headphones. I work with the elderly and mentally incapacitated - those with violent histories, and regardless of whether it is percieved that beats, as stated in the article, have no effect on brain frequencies, I can vouch that music and beats have a substantial effect on those with less control over their menatl and cognisant abilities. This is from experience not from a journal. I think it has a lot to do with the level of control we have over our consciousness and how much we allow our subcnsciousness to take affect. Sorry but the skeptics haven't convinced me this time!

Lou Oroton, Melbourne, Australia
August 22, 2011 5:32am

I wish people would read the article by Oster rather than just citing it. It can be found at http://www.sublimen.com/sublimen/documenti/G.OsterAuditoryBeatsintheBrain.pdf While it is fascinating, he didn't study entrainment at all and made no claims about it. He studied perception of binaural beats. Among his interesting findings were that some people cannot perceive them at all, and he felt that testing for perception of binaural beats might have diagnostic value, because it seemed to be correlated with certain health problems. He did not test whether the brain tries to match to the beats nor discuss this idea at all, despite the fact that web sites keep claiming that he did in that article. Presumably because people either didn't do the research or are trying to fraudulently give false claims an err of science and think nobody will check their sources. His actual research is interesting though, even though it in no way supports the claims made about what binaural beats can do.

Rachel, California
September 17, 2011 12:14am

@Marco Cappelli,

Scientific American is not reputable scientific journal. It is a popular science magazine, you could almost classify it as a tabloid. With all respect I find it strange that someone with PhD will support their statements with Scintific American.

Radek Garbowski, Leeds, UK
October 9, 2011 2:48am

I AM a sound engineer, currently studying binaural beats as part of my course and from talking to my lecturers who have written published masters degree level papers on the subject. The effects of binaural beats are very real, so much so that i have been told that i should not conduct experiments using binaural beats for ethical reasons. It seems the writer of this article had a default position, i.e. that the effects of binaural beats are exadurated, yet only cites 2 sources that corroborate his default position, this is not objective, nor skeptical in the true sense of the word. Bias like this from the so called scientifically minded really bothers me, thumbs down for this article

Straw Man, Scotland
October 10, 2011 3:35am

Did you guys do any actual research on binaural beats or did you just summarily dismiss the idea because it wasn't mainstream? They can have some very powerful, life changing, even dangerous effects. It's true that not everyone can percieve binaural beats, but they still have a 75% success rate. Getting the full effect can take some practice, but once you get the knack down you'll have no doubt they work as advertised.

Brian, Florida
October 19, 2011 8:18pm

Why ask Brian? Ask Eddy Vedder, he released the album over twelve years ago..

Was woo then, is woo now..

Pho, Gerringong, the not so Brave, Oz
October 20, 2011 3:36am

I have been testing binaural beats for a year now and feel that whether they work or not is often down to my actual mood at the time. Also what they accomplish depends on my mood at the time.
I have even fallen asleep to a beat thinking it was a sleep enhancer when, in actual fact, I was listening to a concentration booster!

@Straw Man - are you able to supply details of where these papers on binaural beats are available? I would be interested to read them.

@Brian - I have given beats to different people and they all report different results (or no results in some cases, merely a desire to vomit). If this is the case then I am not sure that it is accurate to say that they work as advertised...

Mikey, UK
October 21, 2011 8:12am

check out the brainwave synchronizer effect in cool edit.read the"help"

dave aus, melb
October 26, 2011 5:49am

To begin, there seems to be a bit of confusion on what people are led to believe. Controversies concerning the brain, mind, and consciousness have existed since the early Greek philosophers argued about the nature of the mind-body relationship, and none of these disputes has been resolved. Modern neurologists have located the mind in the brain and have said that consciousness is the result of electrochemical neurological activity. There are, however, growing observations to the contrary. There is no neurophysiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind (intuition, insight, creativity, imagination, understanding, thought, reasoning, intent, decision, knowing, will, spirit, or soul) are located in brain tissue (Hunt, 1995). So to say that you are able to disprove such a theory because it doesn't alter your state of mind is completely flawed. There are many variables at hand that concluding that the "ecstasy" binaural beat didn't give you the desired effect is limited to the factors of you not having previous practice with the drug itself. Your mind won't be able to produce the same effect if it's not able to recall what effects the drug had altered before. In other words, if you listened to an "alcoholic" binaural beat and you had no knowledge of its effects or tried it, how could you conclude that it had any effect at all.

Max, California
November 5, 2011 1:26pm

(Continued)
If mind-consciousness is not the brain, why then does science relate states of consciousness and mental functioning to brain-wave frequencies? And how is it that audio with embedded binaural beats alters brain waves? The first question can be answered in terms of instrumentation. There is no objective way to measure mind or consciousness with an instrument. Mind-consciousness appears to be a field phenomenon which interfaces with the body and the neurological structures of the brain (Hunt, 1995). One cant measure this field directly with current instrumentation. On the other hand, the electrical potentials of brain waves can be measured and easily quantified.

As to the second question raised in the above paragraph, audio with embedded binaural beats alters the electrochemical environment of the brain. This allows mind-consciousness to have different experiences. When the brain is entrained to lower frequencies and awareness is maintained, a unique state of consciousness emerges. This state is often referred to as hypnogogia \"mind awake/body asleep.\" Some states of consciousness provide limited views of reality, while others provide an expanded awareness of reality. For the most part, states of consciousness change in response to the ever-changing internal environment and surrounding stimulation. For example, states of consciousness are subject to influences like drugs and circadian and ultradian rhythms.

Max, California
November 5, 2011 1:46pm

It seems sad that Brian would provide such lacking detailed information on such a profound and intellectual topic revolving around the neurological brain development of today. I enjoy most of the articles, but because this topic seems superficial doesn't mean that actual progress hasn't been made, or that this doesn't work. You have to wait and to know what it is doing for you to make the effects real. This doesn't work with a blind or double blind study. It's sad that you would propose such an illogical suggestion on a topic that doesn't have the tools to measure the conscious ability or change of the mind vs the brain.

Max, California
November 5, 2011 1:52pm

That present day science can't prove the effects of binaurals does not say it doesn't work. especially in the field of brain-functioning, conscience etc. there's so much left to explore. Maybe it's a little bit early to discard these developments in Binaurals. I-Doser came pretty far already, for many the results are stunning, but yes,it helps to be open-minded, or at least neutral.
If done some profound study on mind-power & its effects in general, you will find that the powerfull mind's influence works both ways, with a tendency to block what's out of our comfortzone. Thats why people are witheld to explore the unknown, have them rather ridiculing(hell, thats why so many people fail in most parts of life!). Maybe it wouldn't hurt to put a little more nrg in just trying some Binaurals, open minded this time, save you some time gathering scientific 'proof' in a field where the mayor part is still unknown, unexplored.
Suggestion: try I-Dosers "Gate of Hades", only AFTERWARDS reading what its supposed to do, post your experience.
Like is said: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

PS: my real name you will not get

PPS: I, like most in my world are living proof -spiritual, daily pursuits & plain wealth- of the right application of MINDPOWER. As someone who knows,I advise you, stop blocking, expand your horizon, for now, even just a little'd be ok, start with binaurals, use this experience to expand even your professional/ financial life. You might be surprised...

Lame, The Netherlands
November 19, 2011 1:03pm

For more accurate information regarding binaural beats do research on Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, the person who discovered binaural beats in 1839, look up information on Gerald Oster, the person who wrote "Auditory Beats in the Brain" Scientific American 1973. You will find cognitive neurological research and the neurological pathways of binaural beats for improving neurological conditions. Also, look up the WISC-111 SCAD exam given to learning disabled children in 2003 measured by Walden University where the before and after test administered to the children who were given 12 biweekly, 35 minute AVS (audio visual stimulation). Tests showed significant changes to specific cognative abilities in these children. AVS is also known as "mind machine" and pairs the auditory beats with visual stimulas to the brain.

Katherine, Spokane, WA
December 2, 2011 9:35am

You think a self-proclaimed "skeptic" would be critical enough to analyze the evidence from more than a few hand-picked studies. You think a "skeptic" would look at a meta-analysis, such as

http://www.doctorspreferredprograms.com/research-articles/Comprehesive%20Review...Brain%20Entrainment%20Email.pdf

before jumping to his own stupid conclusions.

Jason, Portland, OR
January 4, 2012 9:26pm

If people would care to read the studies they cite, most of them don't actually look at "pure" binaural beats (BB), but instead use either pink noise (binaural beats "hidden" in music) or a combination of photic driving (light at specific frequencies) and BB. Those few studies that have examined BB and entrainment using EEG (see for instance Wahbeh et al. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17388762] and Stevens et al [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12722933] find no statistically significant differences between BB stimulation and non-stimulation periods, while behavioural outcomes are also questionable (see the meta analysis posted above and look at all the entries that contain BB alone...)

That being said, there's some evidence of very short term increase in cortical frequencies matching the BB frequency(Pratt et al, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20123120 + Karino et al. [which is actually an MEG study, NOT an EEG study as suggested by this blog] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16790592), however as said above if they translate into behavioural / perceptual effects remains to be seen.

Not that its worth terribly much but I'm a neuroscientist that examined BB entrainment using EEG and basic behavioural tasks. No significant differences between BB stimulation and non-stimulation periods were found. While not conclusive "proof" of the fallibility of BB altering brain waves, it does add another piece of evidence against it. Article pending publication in PLOS ONE

Peter, Melbourne
January 14, 2012 6:01am

I'm 100% sure that they work. To what extent, I'm not certain. I've tried a lot of drugs and some of them did mimic those drugs effectively, of course they weren't as good as the substance themselves. Heroin was a good, as was the anesthesia one that left me wobbling as I stood up. The orgasm one was proof for me though, I could feel the pre-orgasmic sensations while listening to this one and my hands were nowhere near my genital area.

Emily, Somewhere, nowhere.
January 29, 2012 2:17pm

I tried some binaural beats that were meant to aid cognition / attention. I was left feeling very nauseous for the rest of the day, and also left with a very real nervous energy, like having had too much caffeine.

I put this down to suggestion, as I'd read what the beats were supposed to do before I tried it. In order to eliminate this, I asked my girlfriend to listen to this uncomfortable sound for a few minutes. This she did, and immediately said she felt nauseous and had to lie down. I had not warned her of this possible eventuality, it seemed to effect both of us in the same way. She did not experience the nervous energy, but I did not subject her to the bits for the same length of time as I did myself.

Whatever the cause, I believe there's something in the beats, and its not pseudo-science, hippie rubbish. Whether the effects are positive or negative I don't know but an interesting side; the sounds have helped relieve my tinnitus. Perhaps a better person than I could explain this.

Grimshaw, Bath, England
January 30, 2012 5:44am

I do believe binaural beats have an effect on your state of consciousness.
No, I do not believe you can get 'high' on binaural beats like many people would exaggerate, however, from my own experience, binarual beats are more than just a placebo effect. It is no a pseudo-science, despite many would proclaim. The claim of it being pseudo-science stems from the exaggerations people make about binaural beats, which would falsify it immediately.
If anyone is curious about binaural beats or still skeptical about it, go right ahead and try it out for yourself and experiment with different frequencies.
Good luck.

Stevie J., Los Angeles, California
February 24, 2012 11:24am

Before listeneing to binaural beats I was completely unaware what I was in for. I downloaded the sounds believing that it was a meditation/relaxation CD...boy was I in for the shock of my life!

After listening to binaural beats for a few mins I began to feel quite dizzy. When the dizziness subsided, the feeling started to slightly mimic being stoned and very calm. Following that I became nauseous and my head felt very thick and cloudy. I believe if I had listened to it for any longer, I probably would have been sick :(

Dimi, Australia
March 11, 2012 3:07am

Wow, nice to see the perpetrators that hock this stuff on here screaming bloody murder at the suggestion that their money making scam isn't real.

Just look at the message boards of a certain "dose" site. Some guy asks about some 'dose' and he gets some lecture about how no such thing exists and so he obviously stole a pirate copy and such copies will have "little or no effect" and so please buy the real version which is only good for ONE computer of course; you must buy it AGAIN for another one (what a racket).

I don't care what one's views on pirating are; it doesn't change the FACT that either a system works or it doesn't. If the creator of said scam tells you it doesn't work if you didn't pay him (preferably multiple times for the same recording which can only be used on his playback software to ensure you can't just move it to another playback device) one can only conclude that the system doesn't work PERIOD. Because either it works or it doesn't or in this case it can ONLY work if the placebo suggestion is strong enough to inflict a near schizoid reaction from the 'patient' who is probably using some recreational drug while playing it anyway before he goes onto the forum and announces he thinks he saw Jesus riding a blueberry muffin while eating a large car so it simply MUST be work and is 10x better than actual LSD but with no addiction!

Then there's the standard psychic's "entertain only" disclaimer with NO REFUNDS. In short, you got punked! Enjoy the noise.

Neo, TheMatrix
April 8, 2012 8:55pm

i think its fake

ASDFasdf, amsterdam
April 14, 2012 12:57pm

I have been doing binaural beats for a few month now and can honesty say they have been a godsend to me I I suffered really bad carpel tunnel and since doing these it has completely gone I also have not had a headache since doing these so I totally disagree with skeptic whatever hasn't got a clue what he's talking about!!!!!

claire, newcastle
April 20, 2012 2:38am

I just wanted to comment on the remark that woman's periods are an example of synchronising systems. I was under the impression, that female menstrual cycle synchronisation was a myth and mainly due to conformation bias.

If this is not the case please let me know.

Lukas Marsoner, South Tyrol, Italy
April 23, 2012 1:14pm

Binaural Beats do work. Sure, they may not have the same effect on everyone's brain considering the fact that everyone's brain is different, but, they still work. One could study the brain wave patterns of humans who are on a specific drug or are in a specific state of mind, and use that for different sound frequencies. In this, someone may be more effected by a Binaural Beat if they've already expereienced the stimulation before, mentally and psyhically. But, as I said earlier, not everyone is effected the same. :)

Mystery, Flordia
April 27, 2012 2:55pm

@Lukas: the true answer to "is menstrual syncing a myth" is "we don't know." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_synchrony) Some studies say it's a myth, other studies found evidence to support it. It's not really the point of the article, though, which used it as an example because most people have at least heard of it.

Casey, Washington, DC
May 4, 2012 1:57pm

I know this is the "Skeptoid" website for skeptics, but this article is completely and undeniably biased. The reason there are skeptics is because people have a false image of what binaural beats can do. Most people only know of it's popularity in the media which can "get you high", which is the major reason it is criticized.

There is more than just those 3 blind studies, Brian. In fact, there are dozens which validify it.

What do you think about the following studies which prove the effects of binaural beats that you have not included in your biased article?

http://www.binauralbeatsgeek.com/binaural-beat-research.html

If you research all the studies that Binaural Beats Geek present on his website you'll see that there is proven evidence of the effects of binaural beats. It's very hypocritical of you to only select your resources according to the interests of your readers, rather than provide ALL studies of validity.

A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment", Tina L Huang, PHD, and Christine Charyton, PHD.

Research Papers from Wilson, 1990, and Rhodes, 1993

Research by Dr Vincent Giampapa, MD, Former President of American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine

Dr Margaret Patterson & Dr Ifor Capel, Marie Curie Cancer Foundation Research Department

Research Paper by Dr Siegfried Othmer

AND MANY MORE STUDIES, just visit Binaural beat geeks website for all resources.

I am skeptic of skeptoid. Case dismissed

Jay, Edmonton
May 13, 2012 6:24pm

Its true that there are alot or rip-off sites out there, promising cancer cures, telepathy, get pregnant, all for $20 a pop. However, there is an increasing amount of research which demonstrates that binaural beats do have a positive effect on the listener

http://www.brainzapr.com/articles/research/binaural-beat-audio-and-pre-operative-anxiety

For me, the fact that you can hear the beat - in your head - gives me the proof that something is happening in my brain. Ultimately, if binaural beats facilitate calming meditation and good sleep, then this has got to be a good thing. Just find a website that doesn't make outlandish claims, and doesn't charge stupid prices.

Ed Liversidge, Horsham UK
May 18, 2012 1:32am

to some of the people that are debunking Brian's study: Brian is not stating that binaural beats have NO effect and are completely bogus, he states that their effects are not scientifically proven and tested to a level which can produce specific results. He states that they have roughly the same effect as any other sound, music, or audio patterns you could hear. Ten people can listen to the same song and react ten different ways to it. Science has yet to contrive an audio method to induce specific reactions in the brain merely from sound. Sure, some songs will evoke certain emotions like sadness, happiness, nostalgia, etc. more often among a listening group, and this is the same for binaural beats. Certain beats may have a generally more relaxing or energizing effect across several listeners, the same way a slow song would generally tend to relax more people than a fast one.

I am not trying to put words in Brian's mouth, this is just my interpretation of the article. Maybe binaural beats do have some effect on a listener, maybe not. The one thing that is for certain, however, is that anyone claiming to know for sure how to specifically and deliberately manipulate the human state of mind in a manner which provides an accurate desired effect is lying, in much the same way that someone is lying when they say they know for sure what happens after we die, or knows for sure exactly how large the universe is, or knows for sure when the world will end.

Jeff, Placentia Ca
May 19, 2012 1:03am

In the words of Col. Tigh: It's that fracking song again!

Li, US
May 24, 2012 8:15am

I got fucked up using this! I got so high...not even kidding.

Carla, Nebraska
June 15, 2012 6:09pm

Youtube binaural beats for free! ;)

Chrys Murry, San Pedro, CA
June 19, 2012 9:09am

it is actually possible, certain tastes, sounds, feelings, basically anything that you can sence using you're five sences can alter any part of your brain
therefor it is possible.
Don't be so ignorrant trying to sell your t-shirt

jordan, chicago
June 21, 2012 3:10pm

I am very much a logical person. I require concrete explainations for things to satisfy my mind, I think we all like to have that, it provides a sense of security but when I find myself gettting too much bogged down in toughts like that, I feel like it closes my mind to explainations not yet discovered or the possibilty of an explanation changing. Afterall, we all thought the world was flat for a very long time and there were people who had a lot invested in our perception remaining that way.

Paula, Philadelphia
June 23, 2012 10:34pm

I understand the point of this article, definitely written in the mindset of a skeptic. Skepticism is, however, needed to keep science alive. What needs to be reiterated is that binaural beats do "work". I do agree, that there is a lack of evidence to prove that it can induce specific emotions for everyone--as emotions themselves have not yet been quantified into many conclusive scientific forms. What they can prove is that specific brain waves in the EEG are emitted during specific states of mind: Lower waves lengths for meditative states and higher for excited states. They have also proven that the phase difference caused by binaural beats in the brain DO cause the brain to emit those SAME frequencies depending on the magnitude of the phase difference between L and R. The 'highness' that people feel can be contributed to the inexperience of reaching a meditative state while still awake. Every one reaches theta and alpha sates of mind; but as adults, this is usually only when you are sleep or just waking up. It takes many years to train your body to reach these points naturally, and the manual stimulation of highly active brain activity or highly meditative brain activity can feel very 'crazy' without proper focus and training. Experiencing it while under any influence will only multiply the 'crazy' feeling of accessing your inner mind. And yes, you will probably go on crazy mental journeys if you allow your thoughts to wander. I'm no guru, just a humble researcher

Michael, Chicago
June 28, 2012 8:19am

Great Michael, can I read your publications on the matter?

mud, Forbidden state, Oz
July 6, 2012 2:46pm

There was a study in a special learning Massachusetts school where 80% of the children were on Ritalin and after 40 hours of binaural beats training, they were off Ritalin and learning, without ADHD problems. Binaural beats can be used to get your brain waves into the ideal pattern for learning. I don't know much about the pop phenomenon, I just know about this study only from this lecture: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4381134473144071630

Phillip, MS
July 9, 2012 11:51am

I agree with everything above EXCEPT for Brian's article. There not being scientific proof of something means nothing. I recently started using binaural beats in an effort to supplement my Adderall for my ADHD. I am a small business owner, and I have issues sometimes with concentrating on work. Before reading about binaural beats, I went looking for them. I thought, "maybe some kind of white noise or something would help to block out the outside world". When I started looking it up online and found binaural beats, it all made sense. The sound does block out the outside world, and it retrains my wondering thoughts. As soon as I start to slow down or get distracted, the sounds change to and it makes me aware of this. It works great for me. It's not just the power of suggestion either, which is what some have suggested. I just makes sense that such a thing would work for someone like me. Im also a firm believer that most folks have some degree of ADD, and therefore something like this would help. I currently use BB for working, taking a break (I practiced self-hypnosis before this, and BB simply helps), and for helping me block out my thoughts and fall asleep at night (previously took hours).

John McD, Milford, NH
July 16, 2012 6:42am

Hi Brian.

Thanks for writing this article. I tried to research the effects of binaural beats in a university experiment in 2009. Unfortunately the results were not published, not only due to not finding the hypothesised results (improvements in problem solving abilities) but probably also due to flaws in my research design and the fact that it was a fairly insignificant master's project. The 'beats' do/did seem to have some effect on mood and at the frequencies I used (alpha at +-7 Hz) and beta (+13Hz), but there was no facilitation of participants' abilities to solve a complex, iterated medical decision making task. There were effects on reaction time though, which interestingly was slowed in both (more so in the 7Hz case). I'm afraid I don't have the paper or more exact figures to hand as it was a while ago and I wasn't too happy with it...I would be happy to share figures, design (including discussion of flaws etc.), apart from the issue of participant confidentiality...

Warren, Hamburg
July 17, 2012 3:49am

question: if you layer binaurals with regular music do they have the same effect?

mrmagichands, Charleston, wv
July 17, 2012 1:01pm

Thank god all these coments appear right after the skeptical article. The brain guy does not really understand what he's talking about. For instance, he talks about a phantom beat at the difference of the 2 input frequencies. Actually that beat is called a convolution and is naturally created when two sinusoids are combined. Any way, if frequencies are programmed so as to avoid this convolution (in visual stimulation) the can create this baet through perceptual integration of the input signals.

I work on entreinment in vision with one or several frequencies and i have collegues working on beats. Here are their scientific papers about music reasearch:
http://www.neuro.cjb.net/content/31/28/10234.short

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811911013474

Of course that does not mean that the sellers do not exagerate their claims. It's a business...
have a nice reading.

Adriano, Brussels
July 26, 2012 1:02am

I found the fact that a profit is trying to be made from disproving a claim that is trying to make a different profit, very funny.

Money and science don't give as good results as science along

Brad, Anywhereville
July 26, 2012 10:13pm

Brad, Science need money.

The fact that you ingrates get zillions back for every cent you spend just isnt noticed.

If Science was TV, we'd be indolent and subjective as well...

Hmm.."Acupuncture has got talent" or "Chiropractic Idol"?

"I dunno, is there something on sports channel?".

"Jim Plunketts short yardage?".

I suppose its tv off and wine on for another day..

Was that a cosmic?

What at 1.5 or 2c?

Mud, Sutho cricket ground, NSW, OZ
July 27, 2012 12:58am

I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. I've heard a little about it before. I felt better about trying it after reading your article, because I found some of the media hype to be scary. I'd like to have improved sleep and more relaxed mood, not astral projection.

Dorothy, Emerald City
August 2, 2012 6:44pm

Dorothy, listen to your Pearl Jam albums.

I do so regularly.

BTW guys, If Peal Jam can take the pee out of commonality induced hubris for 25 years, why hasn't anyone noticed enough to mention it on skeptoid (other than myself?).

It stands to reason that a band that popular would have been a touch more influential to the barking masses.

Hang on... Ive spotted an etheric..(I don't need lights and buzzers like most) Time for my twice annual eye check!

Must be all that time in the pasture...

Mud, back in Sanity, NSW
August 5, 2012 2:02am

I'm more affected by the realization that Pearl Jam has been around for 25 years than I am anything else stated.

Wow, 25 years, I'm old!!

Seth, Allen Town
August 13, 2012 3:46pm

Your subjective analysis of my personal subjective experiences is obviously flawed, in that it assumes that you can correctly and expertly predict my mental behavior from your "studies" at a location of which I have never heard, by "experts" whom I do not know, and yet expect me to believe anything you say and assert to be an objective proof. You have no proof of anything, and have not shown that you even have any experience in the field.

Mark VANN, Panama City florida
August 20, 2012 9:10am

Let me get this... You haven't bothered to read Brian's references and you quote subjectivity?

Mark, I'f call that profound in any other guise...

When Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs were invented for Oz...I gave up on subjectivity. Then we sold SARS to New Zealanders..

Subjectivity... sometimes its a noun..

Mud, At virtually missing point, NSW, OZ,
August 22, 2012 4:25am

Is everyone out to make a buck these days? I find it quite sad...

Jennifer, Las Vegas, NV
September 5, 2012 3:03pm

I have used these things in the past, for one reason and another I couldn't sleep, the doc prescribed some sleeping pills but they were crap and I eventually gave up on them. Meantime, I tried all kinds of other stuff and came upon binaurals, I always used to be able to meditate and so I thought if I used these things maybe I could compensate for lack of sleep by having downtime meditating.

Anyhow, placebo or not, first night I lay in bed with these big headphones on and next thing I knew was I was awoken by a voice that I answered, while coming out of my hypnopompic state !!! I looked over to the missus, she was still asleep, I took off the phones - and looked around the room. Weird.

Anyhow that's the kind of experiences I was getting, when I was woo I could meditate for hours and at times I had images and voices coming to me, this binaural thing seemed to be repeating the this experience.

Back in my woo days of course the voices and images were my token animal guide coyote and my spirit guide Gandhi lol But now I'm sure it was just the imagination of a very bored still mind!!!

My personal experience leads me to think that the hiss or ocean blocks out aural distractions and the mind gets 'bored', your vision is usually 'fixed' on a distant horizon or your eyes are closed, helping isolate the mind. I believe binaurals to be a short cut through the early stages of meditation, that's all.

The rest is in the mind lol

David "sheeple" Healey, Maidenhead, UK
October 13, 2012 10:35am

Hello, where can you buy binural beats of various frequencies?
Thanks, laurelllane@yahoo.com

laurell, lolo,mt
October 22, 2012 10:40am

I would just like to stop in to say that I find Nathan from Boca Raton's enthusiasm for sharing his frequent piracy of BBs with the other users of this site adorable. Personally, I wouldn't freely scatter admissions of guilt to crimes above a misdemeanor pretty much anywhere, but I have to admire his pluck.

Also, to laurell, the poster above me - here's an easy link to what you requested:

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=buy+binaural+beats

I wouldn't advise spending any money on it though. Get together with Nathan in Florida - he'll hook you up with some illegally obtained stuff for FREE.

Andrew Bird, Los Angeles, CA
October 29, 2012 1:52pm

you can find a free app on Google Play (previously google app store)for Binaural Beats

Jim, Irvine
November 16, 2012 3:26am

It seems to me that there's a scarcity of good studies about binaural beats.

Certainly, many of the claims about binaural beats are quite sketchy, as you have indicated.

Sketchy claims about binaural beats aside, and irresponsible websites notwithstanding, one thing that seems important to me is whether, and to what extent, binaural beats can help facilitate deep altered states of consciousness (ASCs) -- especially, OBEs and NDE-type experiences. As Michael Shermer, the renowned skeptic, wrote in his book, "Why People Believe Weird Things," "NDEs remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of psychology."

There are many anecdotal accounts suggesting that binaural beats can help facilitate profound ASCs for many individuals (or hardworking individuals willing to persistently practice), It appears to me that binaural beats remain "on the table" as a valid tool for exploring the psyche.

It also seems to me that it would be good to systematically check out if binaural beats are in some cases better than simply listening to certain music tracks for certain applications. From my perspective, the jury is still out as to whether music is as good as binaural beats at helping to facilitate certain effects. I've heard of no studies directly comparing music vs. binaural beats in that regard. Without such studies, I personally hesitate to automatically attribute the reported effects of binaural beats to the power of suggestion or expectation.

Bozo, Atomized, Earth
November 21, 2012 9:16pm

"Just Say No and make the facts known with a Skeptoid T-shirt."

lol, you blame other for making money with music, and yourself selling shirts with stupid opionions...

demon, ruhrpott/germany
November 24, 2012 3:06pm

thank you, useful article

mars, kuwait
December 4, 2012 11:04am

In the study comparing a
recording with a binaural beat
with that of a babbling brook, that
seems to be flawed... the babbling
brook soundtrack should be compared with a babbling brook recording with
an embedded binaural beat!!!

gc, australia
December 8, 2012 2:44pm

GC... in the seventies we had movies and clips of babbling brooks with naked people..

Didnt skyhooks pen something on that matter..

I'll check my twistie packet collection.

Twisties, old peoples corn chips. The pleasure is in the packet.

Mud, sin city, NSW, OZ
December 14, 2012 1:40am

Try listening to binaural beats yourself. All it takes is 10 minutes a day, you'll have your answer in a week or so, and they're free: www.JetCityOrange.com/binaural-beats/ There's even a version for your mobile phone too: m.JetCityOrange.com/binaural-beats/ (plot spoiler: yes, they work!)

Jerry Whiting, Seattle
January 3, 2013 7:27am

Jerry, thanks for the link!

Anthony, Somerset
January 4, 2013 6:47pm

A pakeha said the same thing Jerry..He is about to be crowned the Kahwai of the world.

Mud, At virtually missing point, NSW, OZ,
January 9, 2013 11:20pm

Using the fallacious claims of the binaural beats aside, there are always unexplained phenomena, the brain might never be fully understood, so for you to make the claims that it doesn't work is saying that you are an expert in neurology and that it doesn't affect it.
we may never know everything, but always have an open mind.
perhaps it doesn't work, perhaps it does

just try for free.

WillR, flagstaff AZ
January 21, 2013 2:42pm

Thats the "I am free to BS" fallacy WillR.

Science will never know so I am free to emphatically speculate.

The sad thing is the Free to BS fallacy is used to part folk from their money.

ƌ

Mud, missing point, NSW, Oz
January 25, 2013 3:24am

Its time we learned how to open the mind to 100% power. Education is old and obsolete this day...It is good for getting a 'job' nothing more.
USE these sounds to open ur third eye, and the TRUE power will come to you...Namaste...

Hal, Tacoma
January 25, 2013 3:19pm

You can tell from the comments above who wants to believe in binaural beats and who doesn't, or at least aren't invested in a belief.

Good article. For the commentators above who missed it, he's not saying they don't work, he's saying nobody can predict if they will work and to what effect. He made some good points about the science known so far on this which should induce some healthy skepticism into the discussion.

If you enjoy listening and believe they do what is claimed, then go for it. Your belief may be the controlling factor in the outcome.

Mykell, Earth
February 5, 2013 9:07am

I've known of binaural beats for a while, but only recently have I really tried experimenting with them. What I would like to know is if the basic principle of binaural beats (the idea that listening to, for example, a delta wave will make your brainwaves match that frequency) is true or not.

From personal use, I feel that binaural beats do affect me, but in basic moods and behaviours. For example, listening to alpha waves do seem to make me more focused, and listening to delta waves do seem to make me sleepy. Of course, these were uncontrolled tests, and I can't rule out the idea of it being a placebo, or outside factors.

I'm very doubtful of the claims that very specific things - like getting high or stimulating a sex drive - actually work. But regardless, I would encourage everyone to try them out. There are plenty of free options (including YouTube) out there, so there's nothing to lose.

Jeff, Canada
February 12, 2013 8:58am

I think one thing here is that some people are going to be more *prepared* to feel an effect from binaural beats -- and I happily count myself as one of them ;-). I think to suddenly take your 'average Joe' off the street and expect 'miracle' differences in a sitting or two listening to an audio of binaural beats, that MOST wouldn't report drastic differences. Kind of like most people with no previous background wouldn't particularly notice the subtleties of great music, or art, or poetry... And most people would have real trouble suddenly 'meditating' on cue-- unless they are *practiced* at this art. Some people though have done a good bit of exploring in various 'energy psychology' fields and may therefore be more *sensitized* to these changes, and find more benefit. I don't think it's *quite* as simple as just dismissing this as a 'placebo effect' -- though I also find 'placebo' and 'nocebo' effects fascinating to study....and I fully realize that our minds and hearts can *lead* us to various things *because* we have deep belief in place. Sort of like a person who is very practiced in *prayer* will find MUCH more benefit than someone instructed in a quick psychology experiment to 'pray' and we'll calculate the 'outcome' ;-).

Always beneficial to have skeptics-- but also beneficial to be ready to sink into some very fascinating energy discoveries ;-).

Shulamit51, Pennsylvania
February 13, 2013 1:33pm

Yes, special people make the special claim and catch the special bus...

Next..

Mud, Sin City, Oz
February 14, 2013 5:38am

Yes, Shulamit51, we wouldn't appreciate it on as many levels as you.

Give me strength.

Darren, Liverpool, UK
February 14, 2013 8:07am

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21480784

This study suggests that only practiced meditators benefit from the beats.

That makes more sense to me.

BBbeatkin, Houston
February 26, 2013 1:55pm

For someone that has a neurological disorder and has to experience all the weird things that go along with it, I know first hand how strange our brain and nervous system can be. Even the western doctors that treat neuro conditions recommend meditation to calm the nervous system. Virginia Tech is also doing brain surgery with radio frequencies. They pinpoint where the issue is within the brain with a laser and direct the waves specifically at the pinpointed spot to stop tremors and head shakes in people with disorders such as Parkinson's. This is all done without opening up the brain as with traditional surgery. Therefore no chance of infection.
Weirdly enough many people with Parkinson's can't even detect the "beat" that's produced. Not saying anything either way, but what does it hurt to keep an open mind? The author, himself, even admits that it puts him to sleep . . .What I feel has occurred is that there are always those out there willing to Capitalize and jump on anything they think will earn them buckets of money. And a few have found this. There are a lot of products out there that promise the moon and don't deliver. I don't believe that there was enough scientific data included in this article to be definitive in either direction. Quite frankly I don't care if it works on a placebo effect basis. I only care if I get sleep and relief from pain and relaxation, with the added benefit that it's not a drug with other side effects I must combat on top of the original issue

VickiD, California
March 15, 2013 12:34pm

It is a typical skeptic argument that because some (or many) people misuse a technique to get money from gullible individuals that technique is dismissible and/or invalid as a general rule... quite a logical loophole and quite an inaccurate, unjustified assumption.

I'm with you Shulamit51.

from the wikipedia article on binaural beats:
The effects of binaural beats on consciousness were first examined by physicist Thomas Warren Campbell and electrical engineer Dennis Mennerich, who under the direction of Robert Monroe sought to reproduce a subjective impression of 4 Hz oscillation that they associated with out-of-body experience.[14] On the strength of their findings, Monroe created the binaural-beat technology self-development industry by forming The Monroe Institute, now a charitable binaural research and education organization."

Thomas Campbell a physicist who works for NASA) in his "My Big Toe" trilogy pexplains how while doing that research they identified waves oscillating at 4hz at the beginning and end of the out of body experiences and how when they started to use binaural beats to entrain the brain their results began to be successful. In his words: "THE EFFECT WAS POWERFULL, USING THE BINAURAL BEAT TO ENTRAIN BRAINWAVES AS MEASSURED BY THE EEG WAS A FACT. THE EFFECT ON ONE'S CONSCIOUSNESS WAS DRAMATIC... THE BETTER NEWS WAS IT SEEMD TO WORK AS WELL ON EVERYBODY AS IT DID ON US..."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN7FQ0rA8lE

check after 4:00

Rafael, London
March 17, 2013 2:07am

I was first exposed to the issue through Centerpointe Research down in OR. My therapist's crew had just suggested I meditate more. That was ten years ago, and I have been using those products ever since. I've never had an EEG so I've no idea if I'm meditating like a Zen monk the way the founder claim. During that time I was rated by the VA as 100% disabled by my visits to Viet Nam a few decades ago. Therapy, medication and meditation, including TM, Centerpointe & Mindfulness, have made me more resilient when I've encountered "stimulating" events. I'm still married, and haven't shot anybody, yet. Which was the most effective? With such a well-opened mind, that is difficult to say. I don't get into heated political or religious kerfuffles nearly as often as I once did. Entrainment, experience, wisdom or a GAF attitude? IyamwhatIyam.

Gordon Graham, Mukilteo, WA
March 19, 2013 4:35pm

I have actual studied skeptics, and cannot find a more useless group of people. I am an electrical engineer, became really sick, depressed, on the verge of taking the final exit. I refused to even speak to a doctor. Their poison at best suppresses symptoms, and creates ten new ones. In my desperation I started to pray, right way just felt some relief from the spiral of negative thinking. I am just telling you what happen, I ventured into into internet, came across a series of self help methods, including research. I started to experiment, incl. Binaural Beats. I took from everyone, put together a method, which I gradually modified and perfected. The amazing thing was how fast I recovered, and I did not move from my chair. In essence I just change mental and emotional habits. The binaural beats seemed to bring me to a more peaceful level fast, where my program seems to be even more effective. I do not ask skeptics to believe a word, I write, I could not care less. My only point is this: Skeptics are like the patent clerk 100 years ago who said; that they could close shop, for everything was invented. Skeptics pretend to defend science. It needs no defense, and truly scientific minds have no skepticism, until they examine their own evidence. The word is really honesty, that you do lie to yourself, and then repeat the experiment. Is my current health and joy all imagination? So what, I am elated. Even the researchers I followed, skeptics ridiculed. Again who cares.

Jan Johansen, Oslo
March 24, 2013 4:23am

I know I was checking some beats out today and I started talking to my dog when he can by and with the headphones on and the beat still beating away I spoke and my voice sounded like a super crazy awesome robot voice. It was so cool I was like what the hell was that? I am pretty sure it only sounded like that to me under the vibrational tone in my headphone but it shocked me. I was freaked out but it was awesome! I started to hum along and the weirdest thing is my robot humming was completely in tune and it actually did take my mind space trucking. If anyone else was in the room I am sure I would have sounded like a kook but it sounded cool to me and definitely opened my mind up to checking out more even if it didn't really open up my third eye...or did it? I can't imagine that a good beat does nothing. I mean didn't Nikola Tesla say "if you want to know the secrets of the universe think energy, frequency and vibration" Well that's how I am approaching it from now on going to go get me some secrets to the universe through some binaural beats ones that vibrate fast make my voice all cool and sci-fi. I find other ones have helped me at practicing meditation I can sit and focus on whatever I am trying to achieve while listening to a certain beat. But after today it's all about the freaky voice I heard while listening to a beat today. Maybe it's like how Haarp works but on a much smaller level. I don't know I am no scientist and I might be way off base but sounds good to me.

JJ, Philly
April 6, 2013 12:37am

Can binaural beats harm your neuro system or affect your brain cells; or is it ok to use it; how often then;

Antreas, Nicosia
April 10, 2013 9:27am

Actually, you are wrong on one point.
You say:
"Certain brain states produce certain brain waves; brain waves don't produce brain states."
But this is a boldly false assertion.
In fact, the mutual influence and looped effect between states and frequencies are immensely complicated, little understood, but certainly do not only work in one direction only. In other words, brainwaves effect states as much as states effect brainwaves, and - though I hate a cliche - chicken and egg is where we are stuck currently.
See: Rhythms of the Brain by Gyorgy Buzsaki (Oxford University Press).
Of course this niether challenges you nor supports your position in relation to commercially produced acoustic sounds packaged with promises. But it is a shame your valid points are weakened by faulty claims to science, when that is part of what you are criticizing.
Respectfully.

Peter Fish, London
April 14, 2013 12:39pm

I came across BB when I was doing research on alcoholism. I was a thirty year drinker, and often binged or abused booze, and wanted to quit. I found a study where a focus group did entrainment for 3 months, and another other did AA. 80% of the entrainment group had abstained after one year, while only 20% of the AA group did. I did BB for 3 months before I read the article, just to focus on writing and research, and have not had an alcoholic craving since. That has been two years. I found when I listen to 7 or 40 hz, after I stop, it sounds like a computer room in my ears. Something sure happened! Oh, and I sleep like a baby, something I could not do for decades.

Lars, LA
April 19, 2013 11:39am

I recently listened to a "Skeptic's Guide to the Universe" episode wherein they discussed the synchronization of menstrual cycles among women. According to those guys, this is a common misconception. Just throwing that out there. Anyway, great podcast! Keep up the awesome work!!
Your skeptical buddy,
Chris

Chris Licht, North palm beach, FL
April 23, 2013 1:00pm

I am under the impression that AA has the same rate as going cold turkey.

Thats about 4-6% across studies nowhere near 20%. In fact, if 20% was the success rate, it would be worth committing someone to god bothering woo to give up the amber of the gods.

Strange that...

Mud, Sin City
April 30, 2013 4:23am

I believe that you mr. believe that you are open minded person and know everything, only because some "accredited body" give you permission for you thoughts. Nobody know for sure 100% of anything. How about checking the ego.

violet, inthemidle
June 7, 2013 6:47am

By no means do I consider Binaural Beats some kind of digital wonder drug; however, I do prefer listening to them whilst writing over music. They help me stay focused while giving me something pleasant to listen to, whereas music tends to scatter my thoughts in every which way.

Jordan Siron, Orlando
June 24, 2013 9:51pm

Jan Johansen, that is likely a perfect example of the placebo effect. Placebos have real effects, and make great additions to daily life, since it just causes your mind to believe you are getting better.

And your word that skepticism has no place in science should be omitted. Not trusting results until they are reproducible is necessary.

Alex Huszagh, Chicago
June 29, 2013 10:25am

Alex, I think you are confused about how the Placebo effect works. Placebos only show noticeable improvements when there is not actually a condition in the first place. Depression is a real, physiological condition, as is alcoholism, and many other conditions that have physical effects seen primarily through psychological symptoms. If the condition is real, then a placebo is not going to have any effect because a placebo is by definition, not real.

Having said that, I agree that skepticism is an important part of scientific progress, but publicly claiming that something you've not studied yourself is indeed fake, is ridiculous.

If bb are so useful and miraculous, why isn't there more research proving the capabilities and positive effects? Well, look at the billions of dollars being made in the pharmaceutical industry. If people could improve their conditions from listening to an audio recording, then they'd stop buying a lot of drugs, and those companies would make a lot less money.

Also, not only are the studies the author quotes extremely old meaning they are probably outdated, but they don't actually prove anything. In the Japanese study, of course you would find a lot of variability if you only used 9 subjects in your study. 9 subjects is not nearly enough to be statistically relevant.

My conclusion: Binaural beats are not a placebo. They are as much a placebo as meditation, and both have been empirically proven to physically alter your mental state.

Astro, Chapel Hill
June 30, 2013 3:42pm

Astro, Yes "not real" things have effects, like a fake gun still causes fear. heck you can kill someone with it. And yes the placebo or suggestion effect or belief is real and calculated and repeated. binaural beats could be a placebo. please site your new studies you would want the author and us to look at.

Ben, Wilmington
July 1, 2013 9:11pm

Real or Placebo? doesn't make any difference, the mind can be tricked by hypnosis, alcohol, music and several other methods.
hypnosis: controlled by another
alcohol: blocks inhibitions
music: creates a mood
etc...etc...
Why not BB.
But, there may be a problem.
I have an average of 80% hearing loss, due to jet engines, more in my left ear. Most of the younger generation have varying degrees of hearing loss due to the loud music of today. Therefore, do we not receive the required 'dosage' of beats per ear? I have read quite a bit about BB and nowhere have I seen anyone address this issue. What is my point? If you have a frequency loss in one ear over the other, then what you intend as an Alcohol beat could be a Viagra trip.

jake, lake-o-the-pines
July 22, 2013 8:26am

Astro, your definition of the placebo effect sounds a lot like something you just pulled out of your head. The classic example of the placebo effect would be when a group of people with a *real* condition are given a treatment that is not real (for example, a simple sugar pill) and they show some improvement. Although not fully understood, this has to do with the interplay between expectations and physiology.

As for the "outdated" studies, you can't just blow off the studies because they're somewhat old. You have to actually provide references to new studies that prove your claim. Otherwise, the old studies still hold up. The passage of time doesn't magically invalidate scientific papers - it's not like a car that depreciates in value. As for the size of the study, if the effect of the binaural beats is so strong, why wouldn't it show up in a sample of nine people? See, the way science works is that it requires strong proof to validate a claim. And saying that the sample was too small is nowhere near proving that binaural beats work - you have to *actually demonstrate they work*.

Finally, just because pharmaceutical companies might not want to have to compete with binaural beats doesn't mean that binaural beats actually work. You structured the comment like you could logically deduce your conclusion from what you said, but that's not the case at all. This is the kind of linguistic alchemy typical of pseudoscience.

W, Durham
September 21, 2013 5:13pm

Not only are you ignorant, you're a hypocrite. Look at your ads up top advertising the very same thing you say doesn't work and then try to demonstrate an ounce of credibility. People like you and your followers are the reason that mankind is not progressing.

Bryan, Arizona
October 8, 2013 8:30am

The science of placebo is very real. The power of the 'mind' over the body is incredible, though is evidently limited.

To those who do not believe that methods of treatment which incorporate 'pseudoscience' can effect physiological changes that heal, I suggest reading Anne Harrington's The Cure Within.

Colleen Wong, Boston, MA
October 9, 2013 8:38pm

Thanks Brian for a very clear explanation of BB and the evidence that debunks many extravagant claims for its use. I can understand how certain frequencies may resonate with brain waves to help relax or study or enliven, just as with music. Think Mozart will continue to tickle my fancy.

Paul, Auckland, NZ
October 13, 2013 10:56pm

Bryan, the ads are adsense. They're based on YOUR browsing history and don't discredit anything.

dennis, boston
January 1, 2014 9:09am

Some of the most interesting research on placebo effects is the study of which medical conditions seem to be more influenced by them. For example I seem to recall that high blood pressure was affected by placebos, but heart disease was not.
There IS evidence that expectations can have some influence on parts of our physiology, but not on everything. It's not black and white.
So the reason they often use placebos in double blind studies is because they CAN sometimes have an apparent effect through non pharmaceutical pathways, which they want to distinguish from per se pharmaceutical effects. If there was never any placebo effect because it was not "real", there would be no need to bother with placebos in such studies.

Zeph, DryNorCal
February 19, 2014 2:49pm

I spent one week at the Monroe Institute for OBE studies using bb as a method. I can truly say that using the various bb combos that I went into a meditative deeper state much more rapidly than I could have done without it. Often within 8-10 minutes my right and left side of my brain were entrained and I had some interesting experiences through guided and not guided meditations. Furthermore I was able to reach those deep states more easily without the use of bb after I left the training one week later. There were about 60 people there in that group and I would say that almost everyone achieved a rapid state of deep meditation using bb.
Later on I bought a tape from another source for healing purposes to bring me quickly down to desired level and that also induced that state where I employed a healing using a method that worked for me. I know that this method worked for me and I am very skeptical of claims by anyone out there and like to corroborate my information with multiple sources.

The conscious mind is amazing but the subconscious mind will blow you away once you realize its power and influence over our lives.

Good luck to all, Richard

Richard, burlington, vermont
March 14, 2014 10:21am

Resonance ? Interference? Acoustics? Please go through references you have cited non of these physics terms define BB phenomenon. The brain produces brain waves by itself In a region also responsible for audio perception there for alex is right that all music can alter mood also by involving battery of other centers of brain due to lyrics, past listening experience, rhythm or suggestive imagination;
But BB have a unique way of altering the mood as bb are actually brain waves or illusion waves that are not supplied in the audio. Two similar frequencies heard in each ear: Brain responds by correcting and generating the gap frequency to perceive it. This gap frequency is BB which is so far most powerful brainwave modulator. But the practical application definitely needs more research but trying is not harmful (just time wastage if you experience nothing). But certain mental problems that have connection with brainwaves such as insomnia, ADD/ADHD. Stress, Night Terrors, Sleep walking and addiction/state of mind dependency may have a positive impact. Skeptics are also called illuminati as they move from darkness (superstition) towards light (Truth) but don't be so skeptic that your move away from light again in opposite direction into darkness (Pyrrhonism)

Yahool, New Delhi, India
April 19, 2014 3:28am

Wow,
very informative article Brian.
One thing I find disturbing is this notion that 'the power of suggestion' and 'placebo effects' are a bad thing. What is so wrong with someone 'believing' in something then gaining a benefit from it? And if they are willing to pay for it, who cares? Why should you care? Making outrageous claims and charging money based on these claims is another thing. Big pharma companies make claims and charge squillions every day, even when there are peer reviewed studies refuting the claims. So what's the big deal with someone packaging up a harmless product, using some handy marketing skills and making some money? If you are a resourceful and switched on individual, you can obtain these products for free to try it yourself anyhow.

Lee, Perth, Australia
May 4, 2014 6:25am

Lee,
The bad thing about the placebo effect is very simple. Say my idea of a treatment helps 1 person via this effect but is in fact useless, the 10 people that then try this treatment that has no effect on suffer.So unless my treatment can do what it is said to do, it is wrong to promote it as doing it.
As for your use of the term Big Pharma, I am not sure what you mean.

Bubba, Gorokan the place to be ,OZ
May 5, 2014 5:40pm

Bubba,
fully understand what you are saying. And I agree in part- if your treatment doesn't do what it is said to do then you shouldn't promote it as such. Keep in mind, I am only referring to binaural beats here- something that has VERY limited research available. The link below is one of the only pieces of credible information I can find. And no one could make a call based on this research as the sample size is too small.
But, I stand by what I say, IF a product is harmless, and you have a basis for which to make your claims (I.e some research) then you should be able to market and promote. By big pharma, I'm referring to Pharmaceutical companies that sell drugs on a grand scale and have mega advertising budgets behind them.
Kind Regards. http://www.monroeinstitute.org/research/cat/eeg/binaural-beats-and-the-regulation-of-arousal-levels

Lee, Perth, Australia
May 5, 2014 11:32pm

lol, I love how people are so hung up on scientific evidence, and fail to see that science is just a fraction of what exists. Meaning there could, and probably is, millions of things out there (binaural beats being just one example) that actually do work yet people cite scientific studies that basically don't refute and don't confirm it. I have a simple rule. If doing something has no adverse reaction on my health, then I'll judge it for myself. I listen to BBs/isochronic tones and have had situations that came out of the blue. Too much of a coincidence.

And you know what? Maybe it is placebo. But I am a huge fan of the placebo effect. Simply put, this is the scientific communities way of debunking something as useless. The way I see the placebo effect is a window. A window of opportunity. The brain operates based on reference points (past experiences, smells, emotions, etc). If I listen to a BB that has me believing I will be confident in a social situation, then I may very well get a placebo effect. It might make that person feel more competent in a social environment. Guess what? That person will go out thinking 'This BB allows me to be more confident'. So they will be more confident and there's a high chance that it will go well for them. They'll then get reference points (I was confident and people appreciated me). Over time these reference points will help to form a new belief and this person will then begin operating from that new better belief structure.

Maggz, Brisbane, Australia
June 8, 2014 8:52pm

Gee Maggz,

That seems so simple. It seems like you'd be able to prove something like that...scientifically

Andy, Melbourne
June 9, 2014 9:40am

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