Brainwave Entrainment with Binaural Beats

I’ve been inter­ested in bin­au­ral beats since I first heard of their pro­posed ben­e­fits years ago. My per­sonal expe­ri­ence with them, how­ever, never yielded any results. I sus­pected ‘ben­e­fits’ like study aid were place­bos, and effects like decreased stress seemed more like the results of relax­ing for 20 min­utes over the beats them­selves. I was delighted to choose this as a topic for study in the con­text of psy­chol­ogy and psychoacoustics.

Offi­cially titled ‘An Inves­ti­ga­tion on the Effects of Brain­wave Entrain­ment through Bin­au­ral Beats on Ver­bal Recall’, this project attempted to study the psy­cho­log­i­cal effect of Bin­au­ral Beats through sub­jec­tive tri­als and sta­tis­ti­cal meth­ods using an Emo­tiv EEG.

Emotiv EPOC Headset

Emo­tiv EPOC Headset

The main objec­tives were to

  • Study the effect of Bin­au­ral Beats int the theta range on ver­bal recall scores
  • Cor­re­late the results of the above study with the Big Five per­son­al­ity traits
  •  Study brain­wave entrain­ment using an Elec­troen­cephalo­gram (EEG)

A theta range stim­u­lus was designed, the plot of beat fre­quency vs time  is dis­played below.

Plot of Beat Frequency vs Time

Plot of Beat Fre­quency vs Time

Accord­ing to the Mon­roe Insti­tute, and other lit­er­a­ture, we gath­ered the effects of dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies of the stim­u­la­tion as -

Beta (13–26 Hz) — Alert con­cen­tra­tion and problem-solving
Alpha (8–13 Hz) — Alert relax­ation
Theta (4–7 Hz)  - Deep relax­ation and increased learn­ing
Delta (1–3 Hz) — Deep sleep

We expected to see a gen­eral increase in the ver­bal recall scores, as theta range stim­u­lus is expected to boost learn­ing abil­ity. How­ever, the sub­jec­tive nature of the exper­i­ment and the large num­ber of vari­ables that could bias the exper­i­ment led to gen­er­ally uncon­vinc­ing results.

The analy­sis on the ver­bal recall scores was incon­clu­sive, and this could be due to a large num­ber of rea­sons like length and fre­quency of stim­u­la­tion. Out of the Big Five model, only Con­sci­en­tious­ness appears to have a sig­nif­i­cant p-value, but neg­a­tive cor­re­la­tion coef­fi­cient. This can be inter­preted as “The ver­bal recall scores of care­ful, thor­ough and vig­i­lant peo­ple decreased after expo­sure to bin­au­ral beats stim­u­lus in theta range” – Its log­i­cal valid­ity is questionable.

The EEG study did sug­gest that brain­wave entrain­ment was pos­si­ble, but there was not enough data to cor­re­late this with the big five per­son­al­ity traits. The fol­low­ing image plots the dis­tri­b­u­tion of energy mea­sured by the EEG at dif­fer­ent inter­vals of time.

Distribution of energy

Dis­tri­b­u­tion of energy

Read the full report here.

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