Since Dr. Oster's initial experiments with binaural beats and brainwave entrainment in the early 1970s, research into the therapeutic use of sound has been increasing steadily. Many different monitoring systems and treatment protocols have been developed and tested.
Of particular interest to many researchers is the way in which sound induced brainwave entrainment affects neurohormonal profiles. Vincent Giampapa, MD, a leader in the field of anti-aging medicine, has reported that induction of Alpha, Theta, and Delta brain wave patterns using sound can affect production of cortisol, DHEA, and melatonin.
He studied 19 healthy individuals and found that three daily entrainment sessions produced an average DHEA increase of 44%, with several subjects showing increases greater than 50%. In contrast, cortisol levels dropped an average of 46.5%, with several subjects showing decreases of 70 or 80%. Melatonin levels increased an average of 98%. These changes correlate with reduced stress levels and increased resistance to stress-related disorders. The DHEA change has particular significance, given that prior research has shown that a 100 mcg/dl increase in DHEA corresponds with a 48% reduction in cardiovascular mortality and a 36% reduction in all-cause mortality.
According to Dr. Thompson, brain cells reset their sodium and potassium ratios during Theta states. After extended periods in Beta activity (normal waking consciousness), the ratio between potassium and sodium is out of balance, and this is associated with the experience of "mental fatigue". A brief period of 5–15 minutes in Theta, which can be induced by sound stimuli, can restore the ratio to pre-fatigue levels, resulting in an experience of mental refreshment.
Induced Alpha and Theta states have also been shown to facilitate addiction recovery. Drs. Eugene Peniston and Paul Kulkosky, of the University of Southern Colorado used Alpha and Theta entrainment in a cohort of alcoholics, and found a recovery rate many orders of magnitude greater than in a control group. The entrainment group had fewer relapses at one year, and again at 3 years; they also reported less depression and anxiety than controls (Peniston EG, Kulkosky PJ. Alcoholism. 1989; 12: 271–279)
Drs. Margaret Patterson and Ifor Capel at the Marie Curie Cancer Memorial Foundation Research Department, Surrey, UK, have shown that certain brainwave states markedly increase production of a variety of neurotransmitters. For instance, a 10 Hz (Alpha) signal boosts production and turnover of serotonin, Theta states, around 4 Hz, increase catecholamines, which are essential for memory and learning.
"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," explained Dr. Capel. "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."
Resources on Sound Therapy
www.neuroacoustic.org Website for Jeffrey Thompson, DC, and the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, includes a library of treatises and scientific reviews on brainwave entrainment, binaural beats, and other therapeutic uses of sound.
www.cymatics.org.uk The online home of Peter Guy Manners, MD and Cymatherapy International, an worldwide organization of researchers and clinicians interested in sound and healing.
www.cymaticsource.com Swiss physician and naturalist, Hans Jenny, MD (1904–1972), pioneered techniques for revealing the extraordinary beauty of the wave patterns inherent in sound. Using sound waves to animate inert powders, pastes, and liquids, Jenny created visual representations of sonic phenomena, a science he termed "Cymatics." A beautiful volume of Jenny's cymatic images, out of print for many years, is once again available through this website or by calling 1-603-659-2929.