One of the observed effects of BiNaural Beats is increased learning ability. What is now known as superlearning began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the work of Bulgarian psychiatrist Georgi Lozanov. Lozanov used deep relaxation combined with synchronized rhythms in the brain to cause students to produce alpha waves. He found that students when in this state learned over five times as much information with less study time per day, with greater long-term retention. In some cases, as much as thirty times as much was learned.
Speech-Language pathologist Suzanne Evans Morris, Ph.D., describes the relationship between different brainwave patterns and learning, as well as other related states such as concentration, problem solving, receptivity, and creativity.
Receptivity for learning is related to specific states of consciousness. Predominant brainwave patterns are associated with different states of consciousness or awareness. For example, beta frequencies ranging from 13–26 Hz are associated with concentration, and alert problem solving; alpha frequencies (8–13 Hz) occur when the eyes are closed and a state of alert relaxation is present; theta (4–7 Hz) is associated with deep relaxation with a high receptivity for new experiences and learning… (15)
Morris also describes how audio soundtracks containing binaural beat signals can be used to “create the ability to sustain this theta period of openness for learning.” (15)
Morris goes on to say that “[t]he introduction of theta signals… into the learning environment theoretically allows for a broader and deeper processing of the information provided by the teacher… [and] increases… focus of attention and creates a mental set of open receptivity.” She notes that in the use of such binaural beat signals in a classroom setting, children exhibited “improved focus of attention” and “a greater openness and enthusiasm for learning.” (15)
Morris further describes what happens in the brain that makes this type of accelerated learning so effective:
The presence of theta patterns (4–7 Hz) in the brain has been associated with states of increased receptivity for learning and reduced filtering of information by the left hemisphere. This state of awareness is available for relatively brief periods as the individual enters a state of reverie or passes in and out of the deep sleep phase of the 90 minute sleep cycle. [Binaural beat] signals, however, can facilitate a prolonged state of theta to produce a relaxed receptivity for learning . . . [These signals] create a state of coherence in the brain. Right and left hemispheres as well as subcortical areas become activated in harmony, reflected by equal frequency and amplitude of EEG patterns from both hemispheres. This creates an internal physiological environment for learning which involves the whole brain. The linear, sequential style of problem solving preferred by the left hemisphere is brought into balance with the global, intuitive style of the right hemisphere and limbic system (subcortex). This allows the learner to have greater access to internal and external knowledge and provides a milieu for expanding intuition in problem solving. One of the by-products of hemispheric synchronization appears to be a highly focused state of attending. The ability to reduce ‘mind chatter’ and focus the attention is critical for efficient learning (16).
Binaural beat signals have been used in the classroom to enhance learning ability. Teachers in the Tacoma, Washington, public schools, under the direction of psychologist Devon Edrington, used audio tapes containing a binaural beat sound technology to influence the learning ability of students. They found that students who were taught, studied, and took tests while these tapes were playing did significantly better than a control group not using the tapes. (17)
The theta state also seems to be one where behavior and belief system changes can more easily be made. Suzanne Evans Morris discusses the work of neurotechnology and biofeedback researcher Thomas Budzynski, (1981) in which he described the theta state as
…a transition zone between wakefulness and sleep in which one can absorb new information in an uncritical, non-analytical fashion. [Budzynski] speculated that this allows new information to be considered by the right hemisphere through bypassing the critical filters of the left hemisphere. Thus, information leading to a change in self-concept would become more available; modification of habitual behaviors or consideration of one’s belief system could occur more easily if alternatives were presented during a period of theta activity. (18)
Medical researcher Dr. Gene W. Brockopp also believes behavior modification is enhanced when the subject can be placed in slower, more receptive brain wave patterns. He speculates that using technology to induce brain wave changes can
….actively induce a state of deactivation in which the brain is passive, but not asleep; awake, but not involved with the ‘clutter’ of an ongoing existence. If this is true, then it may be a state in which new cognitive strategies could be designed and developed… [i]f we can help a person to experience different brain-wave states consciously through driving them with external stimulation, we may facilitate the individual’s ability to allow more variations in their functioning through breaking up patterns at the neural level. This may help them develop the ability to shift gears or ‘shuttle’ and move them away from habit patterns of behavior to become more flexible and creative, and to develop elegant strategies of functioning (19).
Many other researchers have described the benefits of alpha and theta brain wave states. Budzynski has done extensive research on learning and suggestion when the brain is in a theta state. Theta, Budzynski suggested, is the state in which superlearning takes place—when in theta, people are able to learn new languages, accept suggestions for changes in behavior and attitudes, or memorize large amounts of information. He says, “We take advantage of the fact that the hypnagogic [theta] state, the twilight state… has these properties of uncritical acceptance of verbal material, or almost any material it can process.” In this state, Budzynski says, “a lot of work gets done very quickly.” (20, 21)
Budzynski and psychobiologist Dr. James McGaugh of the University of California at Irvine have both found that information is also more easily processed and recalled in a theta state. Noted researchers Elmer and Alyce Green, of the Menninger Foundation, have also studied this phenomenon, finding that memories experienced in a theta state “were not like going through a memory in one’s mind but rather like an experience, a reliving.” Individuals producing theta waves also had “new and valid ideas or synthesis of ideas, not primarily by deduction but springing by intuition from unconscious sources.”
In their seminal book, Beyond Biofeedback, the Greens further discussed many remarkable effects of the theta brain wave state. They found that those producing theta waves became highly creative. They had life-altering insights, what the Greens called “integrative experiences leading to feelings of psychological well-being.” On psychological tests, subjects scored as being “psychologically healthier, had more social poise, were less rigid and conforming, and were more self-accepting and creative.” Another remarkable effect was that these subjects became very healthy. Emotionally, these people had “improved relationships with other people as well as greater tolerance, understanding, and love of oneself and of one’s world” (22).
Alpha and theta states have also been shown to facilitate addiction recovery. Dr. Eugene Peniston and Dr. Paul Kulkosky, of the University of Southern Colorado, trained a group of alcoholics to enter the alpha and theta states. These alcoholics showed a recovery rate many orders of magnitude greater than a control group. Thirteen months later, this alpha-theta group showed “sustained prevention of relapse,” and these findings were confirmed in follow-up study three years later. In addition, this group showed a marked personality transformation, including significant increases in qualities such as warmth, stability, conscientiousness, boldness, imaginativeness, and self-control, along with decreases in depression and anxiety. (23)
At the brain wave pattern at the juncture between the alpha and theta rhythms, often called the crossover point by neuroscientists, subjects have experienced some remarkable changes. Houston therapist William Beckwith has reported that in his clients the experience of this crossover point is often accompanied by “the seemingly miraculous resolutions of complex psychological problems.” (24)
Other studies have suggested that states of brain synchronization increase memory. McGaugh’s research on memory and theta waves showed that “the more theta waves appeared in an animal’s EEG after a training session, the more it remembered. This was true in all cases… Apparently, the best predictor of memory was the amount of theta waves recorded in the animal’s brain. [Theta waves] show that the brain is in the right state to process and store information.” (25)
Scientists have discovered that for memories to form, the brain must undergo a process called long-term potentiation (LTP), involving electrical and chemical changes in the neurons associated with memory. Without LTP, incoming information is not stored, but rather quickly and totally forgotten. Neurophysiologist Dr. Gary Lynch and associates at the University of California at Irvine discovered that the key to LTP is the theta brain wave pattern. “We have found the magic rhythm that makes LTP. There’s a magic rhythm, the theta rhythm.” According to Lynch, this is the natural rhythm of the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential for the formation and storage of new memories and the recall of old memories (26).
Other studies have confirmed the incredible benefits of the theta state. In experiments conducted at the Monroe Institute of Applied Science, subjects who produced theta waves (as measured on an EEG) in response to binaural beats “invariably emerged from the experience reporting all the mental phenomena associated with the theta state, such as vivid hypnagogic imagery, creative thoughts, integrative experiences, and spontaneous memories” (27).
How do these amazing mental and emotional changes take place? Many researchers believe that different brain wave patterns are linked to the production in the brain of various neurochemicals associated with relaxation and stress release, increased learning and creativity, memory, and other desirable benefits. These neurochemicals include beta-endorphins, acetylcholine, vasopressin, and serotonin.
Dr. Margaret Patterson, in collaboration with biochemist Dr. Ifor Capel, at the Marie Curie Cancer Memorial Foundation Research Department, in Surrey, England, has shown that certain frequencies in the brain dramatically speed up production of a variety of neurotransmitters, different frequencies different brain chemicals. For instance, a 10 Hz (alpha) brain wave pattern boosts the production and turnover rate of serotonin, a chemical messenger that increases relaxation and eases pain, while catecholamines, vital for memory and learning, respond at around 4 Hz (theta).
According to Capel, “…as far as we can tell, each brain center generates impulses at a specific frequency based on the predominant neurotransmitter it secretes. In other words, the brain’s internal communication system—its language, if you like—is based on frequency… Presumably, when we send in waves of electrical energy at, say, 10 Hz, certain cells in the lower brain stem will respond because they normally fire within that frequency range.” (28)
Dr. William Bauer, one of the foremost experts in the field of electromedicine, elaborates:
What I think is happening… is that by sending out the proper frequency, proper waveform and proper current… we tend to change the configuration of the cell membrane. Cells that are at sub-optimal levels are stimulated to ‘turn on’ and produce what they’re supposed to produce, probably through DNA, which is stimulated through the cell membrane… You’re charging the cells through a biochemical process that can possibly balance the acetylcholine or whatever neurotransmitter needs to be turned on . . . (29)
The increased production of these different neurochemicals can greatly enhance memory and learning. A research team at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Palo Alto found that a group of normal human subjects, when given substances that increased acetylcholine production in the brain, showed great improvement in long-term memory, while at MIT, students taking acetylcholine enhancers experienced improved memory and increased ability to learn lists of words. (30) Researcher Lester A. Henry noted that acetylcholine “is essential to such higher mental processes as learning and memory.” (31)
Recent studies show that insufficient acetylcholine causes memory loss and reduces learning and intelligence. Lack of acetylcholine been linked in part to confusion and memory loss in patients Alzheimer’s disease (32, 33). Other studies have shown that when individuals are given substances that increase the amount of acetylcholine, they show significant increases in scores on memory and intelligence tests (34, 35).
Acetylcholine has also been associated with a greater number of neurons in the cortex and also with greater brain size, with humans having the highest density of acetylcholine in the brain. UC Berkeley researcher Mark Rosenzweig has shown a direct connection between acetylcholine and intelligence. (36)
Other neurochemicals that are produced in the brain in response to binaural beats have been associated with increased memory, learning, and other benefits. Men in their fifties taking vasopressin, a neurochemical closely related to the endorphins, showed significant improvement in memory, leaning, and reaction time. In another study, sixteen normal, healthy subjects of average intelligence were given vasopressin several times, after which they showed dramatic improvement in their ability to learn and remember. (37) Dutch scientists further found that vasopressin had a long-term “cementing effect on consolidation of information.” (38)
At the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), research has indicated that vasopressin boosts memory, enabling subjects to “chunk” and encode information better. (Chunking refers to the ability to group large amounts of information together into more easily remembered bits). NIMH found that decreasing vasopressin is associated with memory deficits. Vasopressin is also associated with and enhances production of theta waves that are associated with increased access to memories and increased creativity. Vasopressin also stimulates the release of endorphins and has restored memory in amnesia victims (39, 40).
15.Morris, Suzanne. The Facilitation of Learning. Privately published manuscript, 1989, p. 16.
16.Morris, Suzanne. The Facilitation of Learning. Privately published manuscript, 1989, p. 16–17.
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