Sunday, January 12, 2014

Silver Linings: Binaural Beats for Study and Writing

For some time now, I've been using binaural beats to help me focus while I am writing. I am not convinced that the binaural beats themselves help me focus, but for some reason the ritual of putting a binaural track, taking my headphones and committing to finish something makes my productivity soar.

The "science" behind the effect of binaural beats seems to be incomplete at most, and very often fishy. Most likely, using a white noise generator would give me the same results - and I don't think I'm experiencing anything else than a placebo effect.

Nonetheless - when I really need to start cranking out a lot of words, and music makes me irritable because I start to listen to the lyrics or decipher the notes that every instrument is playing, I use these binaural beats to reach a state of elevated focus.

With that said, and -hopefully- convincing you guys that I'm not the person to take any spiriwiri mumbojumbo that has not passed some rigorous testing and that is back by Good Science, I would like to invite you to try out binaural beats and see if they help your study and writing too (or a white noise generator sound).

What are binaural beats?
Binaural beats result when two nearly similar frequencies are played in each ear when you are listening to headphones. Your brain will process this information, and you will "hear" a third frequency. For example, when one ear hears 100Hz and the other ear 110Hz, you will hear 10Hz as a result.

What do binaural beats do
According to the alternative medicine community, if you hear this 10Hz difference, your brain waves will increase by 10Hz too. Because there are different frequencies of the brainwaves, it is said that the binaural beat that you hear, can induce a certain state of mind.

Benefit of binaural tracks
Binaural tracks are similar to white noise generators, although they seem to have a little more variation to themselves. I quite like the binaural tracks that are combined with sounds of running water. Since most tracks on YouTube are either 30 minutes or an hour long, you can commit to finishing a certain task within half an hour or an hour, take your headphones, switch on the track and finish it before the track ends.
It's a trick you are playing on your mind, but one that you might like to try out and see if it improves your productivity, for example with this track"



Have you tried using binaural beats during study or writing? How is your experience?

49 comments:

  1. I use them almost every day recently. I find the ones based on concentration and anti-depression work absolutely wonderfully when trying to clear your head and aim on one thing. Espicially ones that the sound does not change, and repeats, is mesmerizing and great for the mind IMO.

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    1. Great to read that! I am mostly working with music these days.

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  2. I don't know if 'binaural beats' are proven by science or pseudo-science or it's even placebo effect, but I manage to get its benefits every time I listen to these. I tried only alpha frequency to help me study and I feel that I can concentrate much better! I tried it to relax and everytime I listen to these before hour I go to bed I get sleepy and I fall asleep much quicker. Last night I slept like a dead! :D

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    1. If I read about binaural beats, it all looks like pseudo-science to me, and I think a lot of it is placebo effect - but our minds are so wonderful that we can get really good effects through it. I have the same results with some favorite CDs: I have 3 "super-writing" records, that make me extremely productive, and there is 1 record I used to listen to every single night before sleeping for 1,5 years - that made me sleep like a rose.

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    2. Would it be possible to know what these records are?

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  3. I'd like to conduct my own experiments with them, not knowing which frequencies supposedly induce which result with a third party. Even if its not a complete science executing the scientific method to see if the third party listener describes the effect similarly to what the beat is suppose to induce should be enough for some light to be shed one way or the other.

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  4. I've been using white noise, brown noise, rain, often with bin aural beats for a while now. Classical music is also great. The effectiveness depends on the activity I'm doing, and the mood I'm in. It's also great to be able to block out background talking or noises with these sounds without lyrical, rhythmatic music. I've also found another music, which is really great - indian classical flute music - have a search for Hari Prasad Chaurasia :)

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  5. So how should I utilize this? I have read that I should listen to the "beats" for 20-30 minutes before attempting to study. The problem is that I don't have 20-30 minutes to waste before studying.

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    1. I've only tried them while writing, not before...

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    2. You listen while studying

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  6. This is a great article! I've been using binaural beats for years now and they really help me to focus and study when I'm trying to get stuff done. I also use them to relax and fall asleep sometimes.

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  7. I've never been any good at 'meditating', but I knew a condition I have would greatly improve if I could figure it out. Binaural beats got me there and changed a lot. I know it can be labeled as pseudo science, but I don't think it is. If there wasn't something to it, I would have stopped years ago.

    I like to see that they are getting more attention (though they have been around for a long time now). I hope more questions get asked! Sooner or later we'll get more answers and research...hopefully.

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  8. Can anyone recommend or provide links to tracks on youtube that they felt helped them focus?

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    1. Just enter "binaural" in the subject header and you'll get hundreds of suggestions.

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    2. Just enter "binaural" in the subject header and you'll get hundreds of suggestions.

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  9. Why does everyone impulsively call it a placebo effect? And why does everyone say that like it's a bad thing? In a sense, of course it's a placebo effect- any way you want to look at it binaural beats are something the individual does for himself. Trying to use a trance for psychological benefits without believing in the trance is like trying to bake brownies without plugging the oven in.
    Science doesn't even know how to explain the placebo effect anyway :)

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    1. I agree completely. I had read the article and these comments, and a placebo effect can be all the difference in life and death. If a patient truly believes that those water pills will cure him and then they do, how amazing is that?

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    2. But then science doesn't need to explain *away* a placebo effect. It's real, and it even might be beneficial; however, science *must* differentiate between direct effects (which are 'real', consistent between subjects/experiments, and which can be replicated) and subjective effects like placebo/nocebo effects.

      As far as I can see, scientific literature on the subject is extremely thin, and that which has been published is methodologically flawed: most are small (N=~8), uncontrolled, and unblinded. These open up the results to three major sources of statistical bias, rendering any conclusion invalid. If binaural beats do have a (positive) physiological effect (which, so far, has not been demonstrated) this could mean a loss to (medical) science. As far as the psychological effects go: listening to normal music has been demonstrated time and again to have positive effects on mood, concentration, composure, etc. Presuming sound is sound --- and again, there has been no demonstration of any relevant effect at all in an even remotely rigorous experiment --- I fail to see why that would be any different with 'binaural beats' ().

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  10. If you want to discover the best binaural beats on the web please visit samadhientrainment.com

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  11. I heard Gamma is great for studying and writing. I like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8msLxIUURI and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KPBxGwm1GA.

    I also will play light music without lyrics just to help awake-ness. Sometimes the beats can get a little drone-y in my head. (Although I enjoy the rain video posted above.

    For music I have found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggLTPyRXUKc in combo with either of the first two work extremely well for me.

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  12. I have been using binaural beats for years and they have really helped me study and focus. It's great they you're spreading the word about this remarkable technology!

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  13. I like using them. The science? Who knows at this point, I'm using them to stimulate creativity for writing fiction... So good luck even figuring out how to measure that empirically.

    My hypotheses is that they do "work" in at least inducing some placebo effect, and perhaps the trippy effect does create a useful creative buzz. Seems possible that when someone reads the description 'digital drug, acid trip' or 'study aid' some technical sounding babble about how it induces this or that brainwave effect, then plugs in their headphones and gets down to their project. They are at the very least motivated and able to focus on the project. Which means they do in fact work. Some of the ones I like on youtube claim to open the third eye or balance chakras or some other nonsense, but if you like the tone and it creates focus what the hippie you uploaded it says about it is irrelevant, to me at least. Spotify has a bunch of these tracks as well if you're interested. Thanks for the post, enjoyed it.

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    1. Thank you! And I agree - the chakra spiriwiri stuff has me raise my eyebrows, but I do like how they help silence out all the noise around me, and don't break my concentration like some music with lyrics (to which I start listening)

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  14. I finally had my first lucid dream using binaural beats! I haven't tried them since high school but now it looks like the technology has really evolved. Here is a review of the beats I used. http://myluciddreamingtips.com/unexplainable-store-review-experience/

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  15. I have had success using binaural beats for lucid dreaming as well, though I have been able to invoke lucid dreaming without them before, the beat definitely makes it easier.

    The track I have is only 15 mins long so I just play it on repeat throughout the night so I'm listening to it when I reach the dream phase of the sleep cycle.

    Of course you have to believe for anything to work. If you fill your mind with negative self talk say about writing a paper of course you're going to be frustrated and miserable. It will take longer to finish and not be your highest quality work. However you can have the complete opposite results simply by changing your self talk to positive.

    The human brain has been thoroughly studied by science so claims are made on exactly how it works. Yet we still know very little about the complete system and as its always said we only use a small percentage of our brains capacity.

    I think to study this scientifically you should have four groups; two binaural groups and two white noise groups. One of each of the groups will be told what the expected feeling is supposed to be while the other is told simply that they will be asked how they feel after the experiment. Of course you would need a large number of participants to put together any true data on the subject which I think is the main pitfall to any studies like this done thus far.

    In addition, our social conditioning has made our ideology of what can and can not be done is often very rigid. Therefore, scientifically I feel a study of binaural beats on children would be rather interesting. An age group just old enough to express their feelings but still young enough to not have their imagination destroyed by the education system, their parents and the societal norm.

    You can not achieve that which you don't believe.

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    1. In addition, why are people using basic numbers like 200Hz and 210Hz for binaural beats? Why not use a frequency range whose resonant frequency equals that of the cosmic resonance of sacred geometry (432Hz or 528Hz)

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    2. I use them to lucid dream every night and I will share my method.. It isn't the beat necessarily as any repetitive sound you can easily recognize will do. Simply have the sound repeating throughout the night. as you fall asleep concentrate on the sound as being your guide to the lucid state. When you start the dream the sound will be incorporated in some way and if you can recognize it then you can realize you are in a dream and take control of it. It takes some practice but if you do it every night you will get better.. It took a few months for me but now I can manage to do it 95% of the time!

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  16. If I could guess at anything, considering people's reactions to this and my own experiences, the sounds cut off a lot of sound around you. As well, I think it may also cut off the noise inside you. For those with depressive symptoms it may silence that inner critic. That being said it may be a good way of eliminating auditory distractions whether they are real or imagined. It would be interesting to see scientists put this to the test to see what effects (positive or negative) these sounds can create.

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    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827550/

      Interesting study.. Very thorough.. Found pretty much that.. They do seem to work for some people but not in the way many are claiming..

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  17. Sorry, I think they are absolutely horrible. Irritating and aggravating. I shut them off within seconds. Just as bad as the isochronic tones and whatever else gawd-awful noise they have come up with.

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  18. I tend to think they have an effect ..... tried for various affects and noticed changes that were not part of my objectives such as a greatly reduced need/want for tobacco products was one as well as generally more observant. .... and experimentally with psilocybin and binaurals the effect is greatly intensified on mild dose compared with and without binaurals and with binaural beats greatly augments the effects of psilocybin

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  20. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlLZU6UPGVA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-hrBhA4XkM

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  21. Ugh. Binaural beats. Makes me heave faster than food poisoning.

    I don't know how more people aren't nauseated by it, or don't get migraines from it, or aren't otherwise negatively affected by this crap.

    Someone's idea of a joke, I think - and paying customers are the punchline, simply because they believe the fake hype and then think there's something wrong with them if they don't claim it 'worked wonders' for them.

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    1. Looks like we're all different. I stopped using them a while ago, I prefer music in the end

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  22. Can you tell me the exact frequencies for the left and right ears to set to get maximum concentration?

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    1. Everybody is different - try out a few and see what works best for you

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  23. The science backs it up so far.. see http://sleepshepherd.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Binaural-Beats-Affect-Working-Memory-Capacity.pdf

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  24. I’ve recently begun experimenting with using binaural beats to help me focus while reading and writing. I came across them while looking for ways to block out distracting sounds in my household.

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  25. Actually, binaural beats have been proven to be a dud so placebo effect indeed. However, the new fad is something from Brainfm. I've been using it and its awesome. Sadly, it is a paid service but lets you have 7 free session to trial without having to pay anything. Take a look and see for yourself.

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  26. Really? Then what about the triple blind study? You people are so dependent on your roles as critics you missed the delta theta wave studies. Of course if any of you knew a damn thing you would have already realized that relaxing music can and does have the same effect

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  27. Thanks for all your comments! Certainly, it looks like binaural beats are a controversial topic...

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  28. I don't wait around for the science when something makes sense to me...AND with my own creative thinking...my mother has dementia and although it's not sufficient, it does help.

    I 'see' the physical effect on her. Anyone reading this with someone with brain dysfunction...try it. Sound therapy (and light therapy also) does work.

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  29. and I'll add, just an MA here in the soft sciences so I'm free to think whatever I wish and I creatively create solutions...and I fully believe by what I experience personally and what I see in my mother that it does activate the vagus nerve.

    I'm so happy to have some treatments I can do for her.

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  30. I used binaural beats for years without any knowledge of which frequencies were supposed to have given effects. I used the brainwave apps by Banzai Labs, which takes listeners through “programs” often consisting of multiple beat frequencies which are delivered in stages (for example, the lucid dreaming program is a 7-stage program designed to bring the listener into a sleep state and then into an aware state while he remains asleep. Side note: this particular program brought on sleep paralysis every single time I tried it). I tried different programs with consistently inconsistent results (that is, some programs worked and some didn't, but the ones that worked always worked and the ones that didn't never did).
    After several years of using these pre-packaged programs, I decided to download Binaural by Giorgio Calderolla, an app that would let me select a beat frequency to play indefinitely. To combat derealization and brain fog, I decided to play 40Hz beats all day for a couple weeks, because Binaural associated high beta/gamma waves with activity and problem solving. In my life, have never been more anxious and irritable than I was for those several days, and I had absolutely no clue why. I was ready to punch anyone and everyone in the face for no particular reason.
    After a while, I suspected that it may have been the 40Hz beats and went back to Banzai Labs’ app. No more irritability. That day, as soon as I got home from work, I looked up the effects of different frequencies of binaural beats, and lo and behold: prolonged exposure to high beta/gamma waves results in heightened anxiety and irritability.
    I was skeptical about the efficacy of binaural beats until this experience, and now that I’m better informed about their effects, I can utilize them more intelligently.
    I will add that my experience has not validated the “entrainment” aspect of binaural beats: I have not experienced prolonged effects for more than a few minutes after using binaural beats, and I certainly haven’t experienced any trends in emotion or cognition over time that could not be attributed to other factors such as personal growth/development, changes in circumstances, sleep patterns, or even diet.

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  31. Anyone have idea, what are of
    this headphones good for sleeping? Thanks

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