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Binaural music for ADHD and sleep problems


Binaural music for ADHD and sleep problems

It has long been scientifically recognized that different EEG frequencies of the brain correlate with different emotional states.
Neurofeedback as ADHD therapy

We initially thought it was an esoteric gimmick that the brain’s EEG frequencies could also be influenced by binaural music. However, the first self-experiments with binaural music, obtained from YouTube using headphones, impressed us so much that we discussed the topic with occupational therapists, psychotherapists and doctors. Their reports of the effects on their patients confirmed our experiences.

Basically, binaural music uses the effect that the body tends to synchronize to predetermined rhythms and frequencies.

1. How binaural music works

1.1. Body synchronization to conventional music (rhythm)

The body adapts its reactions to perceived rhythmic stimuli. It is well known that music with slower rhythms tends to calm and music with faster rhythms tends to stimulate. However, this applies to audible frequencies (20 Hz upwards; music usually has rhythms between 60 and 140 bpm) and has an effect on heart rate and blood pressure, among other things.123

1.2. Wave interference synchronization for binaural music

Binaural music, on the other hand, does not rely on synchronization to an audible or perceptible rhythm, but on an indirect synchronization of frequency interferences.

The slowest brain waves (theta) start at 4 Hz. 4 vibrations per second as a musical rhythm would correspond to 240 bpm. Such a fast rhythm can hardly be resolved acoustically - and would in any case conflict with the function of slow theta waves (deep relaxation, meditation, sleep).
As sound vibrations themselves, rhythm signals below 30 Hz are barely perceptible (and can hardly be transmitted with conventional loudspeakers or headphones).

Binaural music therefore does not work via direct acoustic perception, but indirectly. With binaural music, the frequency of the music is shifted between the left and right ear by the frequency that is to be addressed. To stimulate a frequency of 10 Hz, for example, a tone of 440 Hz is reduced by 5 Hz for one ear and increased by 5 Hz for the other ear. This results in a perceived frequency of 10 Hz in the brain - the so-called binaural beat.

It has been scientifically proven that binaural music is able to specifically influence brain frequencies and thus emotional states.45 See our own measurements below under 3.
Frequencies in the higher alpha and low beta range can increase concentration and reduce the error rate in tasks.6

It is sometimes questioned whether the effect is really mediated by binaurality. A randomized study (n = 141) showed a significant reduction in anxiety in anxiety patients equally with music and binaural music compared to non-music.7 In another study, however, the analgesic effect of binaural theta music was clearly recognizable compared to non-binaural music.8

If you search for Binaural Alpha on YouTube, you will find a number of offers of music with frequencies 8 to 12 Hz apart between the left and right ear. This music is said to help with concentration and learning.

A person affected:

As an esoteric allergy sufferer, I was totally skeptical because it sounds so exotic. But it doesn’t hurt to try, so I listened to an hour of binaural theta music before going to bed. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have my mind spinning, that my head was empty and calm when I went to bed. I could think, yes. If I wanted to and about what I wanted to. But I controlled what I wanted to think about, not let my thoughts overrun and rule me. I never knew that before.
I then continued this in the following weeks (1 - 2 hours of binaural theta music before going to bed, while reading or surfing on the side), at a time of year when I was extremely busy and had suffered from massive stress in previous years. I was completely exhausted and exhausted from all the work - but my previous stress-typical emotional outbursts were absent.

A psychological psychotherapist reports:

I have recommended binaural music (in the theta range) to a number of my patients to help them switch off and relax, which is relevant for many problems. The feedback was consistently positive - except for one patient who reported nightmares and sleepwalking.

A person affected:

I had listened to binaural alpha music via YouTube while working. It worked well for quite a while. Until I suddenly got quite tired and couldn’t really concentrate any more. Then I realized that YouTube had switched to the next track - and that was no longer alpha, but binaural theta music.

A person affected:

After weeks of having very good experiences with theta music to wind down in the evening, one night I listened to alpha music for an hour before going to sleep. That night was a complete disaster: I was awake as a bell. It wasn’t until the end of the night that I felt like I was asleep again and dreamt again. Before that, I had probably slept too, but it didn’t feel like that, but more like a bad sleeping pill that gives you rest, but no sleep or at best a cold dreamless sleep. The next day was horrible. I will never use binaural alpha music to wind down again. Binaural theta music, on the other hand, works well for me.

2. “Binaural” visual stimulation

The effect of binaural music, that frequency differences between the music fed to the right and left ear cause a “beat”, i.e. a differential rhythm in the brain, leads to the question of whether this beat can only be caused by acoustic perception or also by other perceptions that address the left and right hemispheres of the brain with different frequencies.

Studies indicate that visual stimulation with corresponding frequency differentiation has the same effect as acoustic stimulation.9

The mode of action of binaural stimuli reminds us of the mechanisms of action of EMDR therapy (Shapiro). There, too, it is ultimately irrelevant whether the stimuli that change sides of the body are conveyed by eye movements, alternating touches of the body halves or acoustic stimuli. However, EMDR is probably not dependent on the use of certain frequencies and no different frequencies are used on the two body hemispheres.

3. Measurement of brain frequencies under binaural music

In a self-experiment, we investigated the changes in brain frequencies caused by binaural music. The measurement was carried out using a medical frequency measuring device, which is also used for neurofeedback. The experiment included three modes: no music, binaural theta music and binaural alpha music. The neurofeedback therapist who analyzed the results did not know when a change was made and which music was used.

The measurement results show:

  • The changes are recognizable to the minute.
  • The frequency changes have an immediate and constant effect, i.e. there are no further changes even after 15 minutes
  • There are no changes in the ratio of the frequencies (e.g. theta-beta ratio or other ratios)
  • The change in the EEG when switching between the 3 test modes (theta, alpha, no binaural music) was clearly visible.
  • The change between the two types of music (theta and alpha) was clearly recognizable.
    • Theta music did not increase the level of theta frequencies.
      However, a reduction in the deflections in the theta band was noticeable. The frequency response became more uniform.
    • Alpha music caused an overall increase in the level of alpha frequencies.

ATTENTION: This study of a single person on a single day with binaural music from YouTube in no way satisfies any scientific requirements. This would require the measurement of a large number of test subjects with music that they have created themselves according to specific standards. Unfortunately, we are unable to do this due to our limited resources.

  1. Trappe, Voit: The cardiovascular effect of musical genres— a randomized controlled study on the effect of compositions by W. A. Mozart, J. Strauss, and ABBA. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113: 347–52. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2016.0347

  2. Trappe (2012): Einfluss unterschiedlicher Musikstile auf Verhalten und Herz-Kreislauf-System, eine tierexperimentelle Studie bei Schweinen; Dissertation

  3. Reinhardt (1999): Untersuchungen zur Synchronisation von Herzfrequenz und musikalischem Rhythmus im Rahmen einer Entspannungstherapie bei Patienten mit tumorbedingten Schmerzen; Forsch Komplementärmed 1999;6:135–141; DOI:10.1159/000021235

  4. Chaieb, Wilpert, Reber, Fell (2016): Auditory Beat Stimulation and its Effects on Cognition and Mood States; Front Psychiatry. 2015; 6: 70; doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00070; PMCID: PMC4428073

  5. Jirakittayakorn, Wongsawat (2015): The brain responses to different frequencies of binaural beat sounds on QEEG at cortical level. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2015;2015:4687-91. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2015.7319440

  6. Beauchene, Abaid, Moran, Diana, Leonessa (2016): The Effect of Binaural Beats on Visuospatial Working Memory and Cortical Connectivity; PLoS One. 2016; 11(11): e0166630; 10.1371/journal.pone.0166630; PMCID: PMC5125618

  7. Wiwatwongwana, Vichitvejpaisal, Thaikruea, Klaphajone, Tantong, Wiwatwongwana (2016): Medscape; The effect of music with and without binaural beat audio on operative anxiety in patients undergoing cataract surgery: a randomized controlled trial.Eye (Lond). 2016 Nov;30(11):1407-1414. doi: 10.1038/eye.2016.160.

  8. Zampi (2016): Efficacy of Theta Binaural Beats for the Treatment of Chronic Pain; Altern Ther Health Med. 2016 Jan-Feb;22(1):32-8.

  9. Ecsy, Jones, Brown (2016): Alpha-range visual and auditory stimulation reduces the perception of pain; Eur J Pain. 2016 Nov 2. doi: 10.1002/ejp.960.

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