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Binaural Beats – Brainwave Entrainment or Placebo? A DIY Home Science Experiment

Updated: Mar 5

Ever wonder if binaural beats work? So did I. So, I decided to perform a home DIY science experiment...

Binaural beats and brainwave entrainment is often hailed as the ultimate brain hack, binaural beats claim to have the ability to usher your brain from high-stress to deep relaxation with just a few computer generated hertz.

I have to admit, the existing evidence is incredibly poor, and therefore I've always been somewhat skeptical, but I'm also someone who likes to give things a fair shot.

Do binaural beats work?

As an enthusiast of scientific exploration, knowing my s****, and evidence-based knowledge, I decided it was time to personally investigate.

So, with a high-tech brainwave-sensing headband, a reliable binaural beat mind machine, and a brave handful of far-too supportive friends, we embarked on a journey of scientific discovery.


The Tools: A Brainwave-Sensing Headband and Binaural Beat Mind Machine

First things first, let's talk about our tools of the trade. The star of our show is the brainwave-sensing headband, a somewhat nerdy fringe-gadget that offers us a real-time view of our brain's electrical activity.


While nowhere near as precise as a sleep-lab's EEG, this headband is good enough to act like our front-row seat to the live concert that is our brain's electrical symphony.

It allows us to observe the rhythms of our brainwaves, noting any shifts or changes that may occur as we introduce binaural beats into the mix.

Brainwave science

Our second essential tool is the binaural beat mind machine. This device is our dedicated source of binaural beats (with accompanying visual entrainment also), the alleged maestro that supposedly has the power to dictate our brain's rhythm.

Binaural beat mind machine

The mind machine enables us to generate binaural beats at a variety of frequencies, giving us the flexibility to explore the alleged effects of different auditory rhythms on our brain activity.


Capturing the ‘Normal’ Brainwave Activity

Before we dove into the realm of binaural beats, we needed a reference point. This meant capturing 'baseline brainwave activity', essentially a record of our brain's regular rhythms without any influence from external stimuli.

Brainwave entrainment

To do this, we took turns wearing the headband while at rest. The headband diligently recorded our brain activity, providing us with a 'before' picture against which we could compare any changes.

This baseline activity gave us a glimpse into our individual 'neural norm.' By understanding our brain’s standard operating rhythm, we could make an accurate assessment of any potential shifts caused by the binaural beats.


The First Encounter: Binaural Beats at 10 Hz Frequency

With our baseline established, we were ready to begin our dance with the binaural beats. Our first frequency was 10 Hz, a rhythm often associated with a state of relaxed alertness or meditation.

Alpha waves meditation

This frequency supposedly syncs with alpha waves in the brain, thought to foster creativity and decrease depression.

For 15 solid minutes (suggested by the binaural beat machine), we plugged into the mind machine and let the binaural beats wash over us.

All the while, our trusty headbands were tracking and recording any changes in our brainwave activity, acting as our impartial observers in this auditory experiment.


The Blind Test: Double-Blind Protocol for Objectivity

Just to be clear, in the interest of scientific accuracy, we implemented a double-blind protocol. This meant that neither the test subjects (my friends and I) nor the individual administering the frequencies knew which beat we were listening to, or the effects they were purported to induce.

Double blind experiment

This approach is a common practice in scientific studies to eliminate biases and counteract the influence of the placebo effect.

By keeping everyone in the dark about the specific frequency and its associated effects, we ensured that any perceived changes in our mental state could not be attributed to psychological suggestion. Instead, any changes would have to be the direct result of the binaural beats themselves.


Venturing into Various Frequencies Over Weeks

But just testing one frequency obviously wasn’t enough. Over several weeks, we explored a range of different frequencies, including those in the theta range and beyond. Theta waves are generally associated with a state of deep relaxation and are thought to play a role in dreaming.

Theta waves dreaming and sleep

Just as before, the headbands and mind machines were in action, monitoring any potential changes in our brainwave patterns as we tuned into different frequencies.

This extended exploration allowed us to examine whether the effects of binaural beats were consistent across different frequencies and over time.


Did the Binaural Beats Bring About a Brainwave Revolution?

Now, the million-dollar question - did the binaural beats actually influence our brainwaves?

I wish I could regale you with tales of profound neurological shifts, but the data told a completely different story.

Despite varying the frequencies and attempting exposure over weeks, our brainwave activity remained stubbornly unchanged during the sessions. Our brains, it appeared, were not dancing to the tune of the binaural beats.

The science of binaural beats

Our experiment, therefore, did not validate the common claims of binaural beats’ mind-altering powers.

While they definitely provided a unique auditory experience (if you're the kind of person who likes the mononotous sound of a computer generated tone), and even proved to be "relaxing" for some of us, their supposed influence on brainwave activity did not show any signs of existence in this trial.

At best, we could say that binaural beats may be an alternative to white noise, but their effectiveness as a brainwave entrainment tool remains completely unproven in our DIY experiment.

brainwave science


Try it Yourself - Repeat this Binaural Beat Experiment

If you're intrigued by binaural beats, why not conduct your own experiment?

By exploring the phenomenon first-hand, you can develop an informed opinion, rather than relying on the claims and counterclaims floating around on the internet.

Just remember, in the pursuit of knowledge, skepticism is your best friend and healthy questioning is sensible.


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