Are the rumors true? Do binaural beats actually work for better focus?
We all wish that learning was as easy as just plugging our brain into the Matrix. Many of us life hackers are always searching for the next big tool on that journey to self-optimization. And while we’re not quite there yet, some engineers have been attempting to accelerate the process by hitting our eardrums with precisely the right sounds.
The science behind binaural beats is not very complicated: using a pair of stereo headphones, two different frequencies are projected into your brain and interpreted as one larger, joined frequency. This composite frequency allegedly amplifies existing brain waves to help you better concentrate, learn, remember, or think deeply, depending on the specific frequency of the beats and the brain waves that they map to.
Binaural beats are therefore a type of “brainwave entrainment”, a process in which the natural wavelengths of the brain are trained or synchronized to fall into a specific type of brainwave that corresponds with a desired mental state (e.g. sleep, awareness, etc.). Brainwave entrainment is not limited to auditory stimuli; you can also train your brainwaves using visual cues such as periodic light flashes.
Do binaural beats actually work?
Even though we do not doubt the existence of the binaural beat phenomenon, a process that has been well documented, we do have reason to doubt the uses of these beats. We have no sound evidence (pun intended ;) to support the direct influence of binaural beats on learning and memory. Some studies find that binaural beats can improve certain kinds of memory, while others have found it can actually adversely affect memory.
Nevertheless, it has been found that listening to binaural beats can help achieve greater degrees of concentration and attention. It is also speculated that they can actually assist in entering meditative states. Therefore, we can say that binaural beats can help your brain to learn better insofar as concentration and meditation help you consolidate learning and memory.
Other claims about binaural beats are pretty ambitious when we think about them in more detail. There are reports that binaural beats can allegedly help you improve:
- DNA stimulation
- Weight Loss
- Public Speaking
- And many more ...
The research on most of these effects is tentative at best.
Using binaural beats during studying
So the answer to the question do binaural beats actually work is not clear cut. We currently need a lot more research to prove whether binaural beats actually work and improve these things as well as your learning and memory. Sorry if you were looking for more of a silver bullet!
What we do know is that there are better natural tactics to improve your focus, and that that nothing beats good old-fashioned optimal study habits. <– Check out both of those articles if you really want some unexpected and underrated life hacks.
And if you are listening to binaural beats while studying in Brainscape, remember that sometimes a placebo effect can be just as good. Check out Infinite Bliss or Dream Tunnel for a good start with some simple binaural beats, and you can also find great binaural beats on mobile app stores.
Best of luck in your learnings either way!
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Lane, C. E. (1925). Binaural beats. Physical Review, 26(3), 401. https://journals.aps.org/pr/abstract/10.1103/PhysRev.26.401
López-Caballero, F., & Escera, C. (2017). Binaural beat: a failure to enhance EEG power and emotional arousal. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 557. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00557
Mortazavi, S. M. J., Zahraei-Moghadam, S. M., Masoumi, S., Rafati, A., Haghani, M., Mortazavi, S. A. R., & Zehtabian, M. (2017). Short term exposure to binaural beats adversely affects learning and memory in rats. Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering, 157. https://dx.doi.org/10.31661/jbpe.v0i0.589
Rajan, A., Hashim, A., Akre, V., Walid, H., Nassiri, N., & Ahmed, M. (2018, November). The impacts of binaural beats. In 2018 Fifth HCT Information Technology Trends (ITT) (pp. 353-357). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/CTIT.2018.8649538