Every music fan knows a good tune can change your mood, but is it possible for sounds to actually alter your brainwaves? Believers in binaural beats think so. They claim these sounds, when listened to through headphones, can help relieve fatigue, help with relaxation or even induce meditation.
Does it actually do these things? There’s no scientific study saying so, but feel free to try out for yourself. There’s nothing harmful about it, even if it’s occasionally misunderstood.
Curious? Check out Gnaural, a free program for creating and listening to binaural beats. There’s even a collection of beats to try out, claiming to do everything from replacing your morning cup of coffee to helping you study.
What’s A Binarual Beat?
Discovered in 1839, binaural beats are a fantastic example of how our brains can combine unrelated information in unintuitive ways. Basically, two slightly different tones are played, one through each headphone jack. The human mind, in an attempt to put these two sounds together, produces a rhythm. Check out this example if you’re not sure what I mean – with stereo headphones you can hear a rhythm, through speakers you cannot.
Can these sorts of sounds alter your brain? There’s no scientific evidence to suggest so, though there are believers. It could well be a placebo effect, it could be a real affect that’s no completely understood, but it’s almost certainly benign.
That didn’t stop some particularly irresponsible journalists from calling binaural beats a digital drug in a report complete with scare tactics. The state of Oklahoma even issued a warning to parents about these beats, seemingly based on zero evidence. Sound isn’t a drug, and there’s no reason to believe these beats can act as one any more than music is.
Do you want to find out more? Read about binaural beats on Wikipedia.
Want to hear some binaural beats for yourself? Check out Gnaural, a cross platform program for creating and playing binaural beats. Be warned, though – when you first start it up you may feel overwhelmed.
If all you want to do is hear the beats, simply put on your headphones and hit the “Play” button at the bottom right. You’ll hear some white noise, along with the two slightly different pitches. Your brain will do the work of making the rhythm.
The graph above the play button represents the frequencies being used. You can alter this, if you want, by simply clicking and dragging on the line.
Are you not sure what any of this means? Experimenting can give you an idea, but you can also check out the Gnaural preset collection. Here you will find presets created by the Gnaural team and enthusiasts claiming to do a variety of things.
Experiment; see if you enjoy this experience. It can work, and it might be a placebo, but it’s not dangerous.
Do you want to listen to these beats on the go? You can export them to a variety of formats, including FLAC and WAV. You’ll find this option under “File” in the menu.
Are you ready to give this a shot? Download Gnaural for Linux, Mac or Windows. There’s even a Java applet you can try out without downloading anything, if you want. Oh, and just to remind you, you can download Gnaural presets here.
Are you an Android user? Check out these Android apps for binaural beats instead.
Does It Work?
Like I said, there’s no proof that binaural beats can induce a reaction anything like taking recreational drugs. They are, however, relaxing, and do have an effect on the human brain. What this means is entirely up to you. To quote the creator of Gnaural:
“As for ‘snake-oil’ claims by profiteers as to what binaural beats can do (ranging from targeting specific drug states to curing disease), my experience is that low frequency brainwave entrainment works as a blanket effect to create a focused mental state similar to hypnosis, in which heightened suggestibility causes expectations to strongly influence experience.”
Basically, these beats help relax you, and can mean whatever you want after that. He goes on to say he “make[s] no guarantees about what the technique can or can’t do for anyone else.”
Did you try out Gnaural? Let us know what you think in the comments below, along with any presents readers should check out.