Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Boost Brain Power With Sound: Music and Binaural Beats 🔊

I love nootropics, but I also like to look for other great ways to increase my brain power. Things that I can do instead of, or in addition to, taking supplements. For instance, eating well, getting good sleep at night, and enough exercise during the day, all have an immensely positive effect on your thinking capacity, and overall mental health. Another way to give your brain a boost involves the use of sound.

The Mozart Effect 🎼

Some of you may have heard that listening to classical music can make you smarter. The concept has been dubbed "The Mozart effect." However, there have been no actual studies suggesting that listening to music can make you smarter in the long-term. What does exist is a study done in 1993, in which college age students showed significantly better spatial reasoning skills after listening to Mozart for ten minutes. But this effect was limited to spatial reasoning, and did not last longer than 10-15 minutes.

Playing Music 🎹

One study of Albert Einstein's brain found that both his left and right hemispheres were "unusually well connected to each other and may have contributed to his brilliance."  His mother, who was an expert musician herself, had Albert playing music from an early age. “Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories,” said his wife Elsa. Einstein himself even said that if he had not been a scientist, he would have certainly been a musician. “Life without playing music is inconceivable for me, I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.” Einstein's love of music could have had a lot to do with his superior mental capacity.

Many studies link musical training to improved brain function and higher academic achievement in children. Psychology Today writes: “Practicing a musical instrument regularly engages all four hemispheres of your brain at an electrical, chemical and architectural level which optimizes brain power. Musical training also improves focus, reduces stress, and could be an antidote for the pressure that children feel to do well on standardized testing as part of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards.”

Getting your children to learn an instrument early will result in benefits such as improved verbal memory and literacy, greater communication skills, improved white matter connectivity, improved executive function, greater thickness of grey matter in the cortex, and more. Playing an instrument as an adult also has many benefits, including improved brain plasticity in later life, superior multi-sensory processing skills, increased blood-flow to the brain, and counter-acting age related decline.

Binaural Beats 🎧

Binaural beat therapy is a form of sound-wave therapy in which both the left and right ears listen to two slightly different frequency tones yet perceive the tone as one. In 1837, physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered that listening to certain tones could actually induce different states of mind. The binaural beat that a person hears is the difference in frequency between the left and the right ear, so headphones are required. If you listen to a tone of 410hz in your left ear and 400hz in your right ear, your brain will make up the difference and hear an imaginary tone of 10hz. That tone is what is referred to as a binaural beat. When your brain makes up this imaginary beat, your brainwaves sync up to that beat, thus creating an altered state of mind.

The common frequency patterns to achieve different mental states are as follows:

Delta Patterns - frequencies between 0.1 and 4 Hz
Associated with dreamless sleep.

Theta Patterns - frequencies between 4 and 8 Hz
Associated with meditation, creativity and REM sleep.

Alpha Patterns - frequencies between 8 and 13 Hz
Associated with relaxation.

Beta Patterns - frequencies between 14 Hz and 100 Hz
Associated with concentration and alertness. Best pattern for studying. However, higher end of frequency may also increase anxiety.

Here is a sample of a binaural beat (make sure your headphones are on):