Science and Histroy of Brainwave Entrainment

Brainwave entrainment has been noted or used in one form or another for centuries, Shamanistic societies use of drum beats is actually a form of brainwave entrainment as are ritual drumming and rhythmic prayer found in cultures throughout the world and are often used in religious ceremonies to induce trance states. In 200 A.D. Ptolemy noted the psychology effects of flickering sunlight generated by a spinning wheel.

The first recorded entrainment phenomenon was noted by the Dutch scientist, Christian Huygens, in 1665. He observed that a number of pendulum driven

clocks in a room fell into synchronization with each other over time. However it wasn’t until the early 1900’s when Hans Berger did the first systematic study of the electrical activities in the human brain that the stage was set for our modern understanding of brainwave entrainment to start to develop.

History's first brainwave recording, obtained by Hans Berger in 1924.

In 1929 just 5 years after the first brainwave recording, Hans Berger discovered the alpha waves. Not long after this, researchers noted that flickering lights can alter brainwave patterns. This is called photic stimulation. In the 1930s and '40s, with then-new EEG equipment and strobe lights, W. Gray Walter performed some of the first scientific research on the subject. In 1959, Chatrian observed that sound stimulation can lead to brainwave synchronization (auditory entrainment).

By the 1960s, scientists were experimenting with brainwave entrainment as a tool for use in various medical procedures and treatments. M.S. Sadove, an anaesthesiologist, used photic stimulation to reduce the use of anaesthesia in surgery. In 1968, Joe Kamiya published an article in Psychology Today on neurofeedback (biofeedback). He noted that EEG frequency states correspond to psychological states, and thus was the first person to introduce the idea that people can be trained to voluntarily control their brainwaves.

Also in the 1960s and '70s, interest in altered states led many artists to become interested in the subject, most notably Brion Gysin who, along with a Cambridge math student, invented the Dreammachine. From the 1970s to date there have been numerous studies and various machines built that combine light and sound. These efforts were aided by continued development of micro circuitry and other electronic breakthroughs allowed for ever more sophisticated equipment for measuring and inducing brainwave entrainment.

Two of the most important breakthroughs were the discovery of binaural beats, first published in Scientific American in 1973 by Gerald Oster and the development of Isochronic tones by Arturo Manns. Combined with more sophisticated equipment, these discoveries led to many attempts to use brainwave entrainment in the treatment of numerous psychological and physiological conditions. We will have a closer look at these types of entrainment methods later.

Other researchers such as Dr. Norman Shealy, Dr. Glen Solomon and others experimented on brainwave entrainment for headache relief, serotonin and HGH release and general relaxation, and in 1981, Michael Hutchison wrote MegaBrain, outlining the many possible uses of brainwave entrainment from meditation to superlearning.

Harold Russel (Ph.D.) and John Carter (Ph.D.) of the University of Houston used brainwave entrainment to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and other learning disorders, testing IQ before and after treatment. They noted that their subjects showed a consistent 5 to 7 point increase in their IQ score.


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