Acoustic Brain Research

Introduction Psychoacoustics researches sound, language and music, and their effects on the brain/mind. The term brain/mind is is based on the view of Dr. Carl Pribram, who considers “the mind” to be a process running parallel to physiological processes in the brain. By looking at the changes in brain states and behaviours elicited through sound, language and music, researchers in the field of Psychoacoustics are exploring the ways in which sound patterns affect brain an cellular processes (1).

Tom Kenyon and his research group Acoustic Brain Research (ABR) have been exploring the use of sound and music to access the creative abilities of the brain and mind, as well as their positive effects on the the immune system and general well-being. ABR developed various tapes and programs with different objectives and emphasis, such as stress reduction, stimulation of the inherent self-healing capacity, enhanced brain performance, addiction recorvery etc. (1).

Strategies and technologies used in ABR tapes The use of language in ABR tapes is highly specific and is basd upon the work of Milton Erickson, M.D. and the use of Transformational Grammar. Transformational Grammar is concerned with the changes in grammar native speakers of a language make when speaking, claiming that these transformations can facilitate altered states of awareness. In the context of this grammar, a special language is used in order to speak directly to the unconscious mind, and this language is characterized by the use of metaphores.

Metaphores are the essence of poetry, having much deeper and more global associations than the language used in day to day life, which is mostly using cognitive type sentences. According to ABR, speaking to the unconscious using metaphors can trigger fundamental changes in behaviours and attitudes and increase the depth of mental and emotional processes (1).

Acoustic stimulation of the brain is accomplished via the auditory pathways, which are routed into the auditory cortex, and the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS does not deal with specific sensory information, instead it is activated by any strong stimulation, such as sound, and consequently activates the entire cerebral cortex (2; p 182). The reason for stimulating the brain in this way is due to one of the basic principles of the ABR technology: An increase in neurological activity in the brain increases the opportunity for change to occur.

A way to research neurological stimulation is the socalled PET scan, where the consumption of glucose in the brain is monitored. Areas with high glucose consumption are considered active, while those with a low consumption rate are inactive. By using this method, it has been shown that language, combined with music leads to stimulation of both hemispheres of the brain (1). There are currently studies under way to research the hypothesis that ABR tapes also increase the endorphin levels within the body. Endorphins are opiate – like chemicals released by the brain under certain circumstances(1).These substances are linked to feelings of relaxation and well – being as well as strategies of the body meant to reduce the impact of stress; for example, in case of injury endorphins are produced alongside hormones like adrenalin in order to reduce pain and cope with shock.

The creation of specific brainwave patternings allows the brain/mind to be more receptive to incoming information which may or may not be expressed in the form of language, and may be direct or subliminal or both. Low – frequency brainwave patternings also lead to relaxation and reduced stress levels, facilitated learning or the entering of altered states of awareness, depending on the frequency that is used.

Brain states have been divided into roughly 7 categories: Super – high Beta: 35 – 150 Hz K – complex: 33 – 35 Hz High Beta: 16 – 32 Hz Beta: 12 – 16 Hz Alpha: 8 – 12 Hz Theta: 4 – 8 Hz Delta: 0.5 – 4 Hz The abbreviation (Hz) stands for Hertz, which is a way to measure the frequency of vibration. The lowest brain activity, Delta, occures during sleep and in the lowest levels of Delta there are no mental images and no physical awareness. However, some notably seasoned meditators can enter this state fully conscious. In Theta there can be visual images, which can seem very real, while there is little or no sense of the physical body. A person may experience his/her body as a field of energy or as if parts of the body are floating in the air.

Theta is ideal for some types of accelerated learning, self – programming and self – healing. The next higher state is Alpha, where a person is aware of his/her body, yet the body is relaxed. The Alpha state greately reduces stress and is also used to accelerate learning, especially the learning of foreign languages (Lozanov Method). Beta is characterized by a high state of alertness and generates the normal waking state. High – Beta marks a state of enhanced alertness and seems to be related to some states of anxiety. The state of K – complex usually occurs in shortbursts and might be a charcteristic of “ah – ha” experiences of heightened creativity.

Super high – Beta states are just now being explored by researchers and there are reports indicating that some of these states produce out of body experiences, kundalini releases and other dynamic psycho-spiritual states (2; p38-40). ABR used a special form of Neuromapping to study the effects of ABR tapes on the brain. Neuromapping is a 24 channel Electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain wave activity via a microprocessor: the 24 channels are color coded to give a topographic map of the brain and the various areas of brain wave activity (1). The state of consciousness is linked to brain wave activity, for example a shift from Alpha to Theta is associated with deep states of relaxation.

It has to be noted that the brain wave activity of the brain is always divers – there is a statistically dominant frequency in the brain but this does not mean that the frequency in the whole brain is the same. Technologies used by ABR to change brain wave states In general, ABR aims at generating brain wave states in the area of Alpha and Theta, and sometimes Delta.

In order to do this, the following strategies are employed:

• Threshold Electronic Pulsations (generating a specific brain wave pattern by pulsing a given frequency at the desired cicles per second)

• Frequency modulations (tones are quickly oscillated between two polarities)

• musical patterning

• tonal architecture

• hemispheric spanning (spacing key tones within the stereo field)

• differential signaling (two different signals are sent to the brain simultaneously.

The tones are most often set in a musical ratio, which are often assiciated with healing abilities. Tapes which make use of this technology have to be listened to using stereo headphones.) •

Use of frequencies to stimulate the sensoriy processing centers of the brain during crucial moments of “high learning potential”. These frequencies may be electronically or naturally generated

These various elements are mixed together into a tonal matrix in which many of the sounds and frequencies are mixed subliminally (just at the threshold of hearing), generating a complex web of auditory stimulation which maximizes brain processing and learning (1). 3 examples of ABR tapes and their effects The tape “Ambient Support” was created by combining ambient music with BioPulseTM Frequencies in the mid – Alpha range (10Hz). It was designed for students and teachers to be used in the classroom in order to reduce anxiety and stress and to increase motivation and ease of learning. But it is also being used by professionals from different fields to increase productivity and enhance creativity. In a subjective survey among students, 90% reported reduced anxiety and stress, 85% reported increased motivation and 84% reported improved memory. I used the tape myself and noted a increase in concentration and a prolonged span of focus.

I was much less affected by distractions caused by the environment like noise, people talking, movement etc.(1). The programm “Freedom to change” is a psychoacoustic program for addiction recovery, self-esteem, eliminating self-sabotage and dealing with emotional overwhelm. It contains messages, both direct and subliminal, created by using transformational grammar and metaphors according to Milton Erickson. The tonal matrices contain BioPulseTM Frequencies in the Alpha-Delta range (10-4 Hz). The core of the program consist of two tracks, the track “Self-Esteem” is meant to build up Self – acceptance, self – respect and trust in one’s feelings and emotions.The track “Eliminating Self – Sabotage” aims at strengthening a positive way of life and letting go of destructive habits. They should be listened to alternatingly on a daily basis. The track ” Emotional Overwhelm” is an additional tool, to be used during difficult emotional periods and the track “Ocean of Calm” is created for relaxation with little sensory input and conatins no audible words.

No detailed information about anecdotal reports on this program was given by ABR, but I have been using it regularly for more than a month by now and found it very helpful. I had the impression that it helped me letting go of my negative self – image and helped to reduce fear The “Psycho-Immunology” series uses a broad range of frequency stimulations in order to create brain wave patterns in the area of Delta, Theta and Alpha (2 – 10 Hz). ABR presents various anecdotal reports claiming that people suffering from chronic health problems (like cancer, endocrine system imbalances, lupus, stress fatigue syndrome etc.) experienced vast improvements through the use of these tapes. They also seem to help with any problems caused by stress. A number of listeners were reported to have had various kinds of transformational experiences and an increased sensitivity to internal sensations (1). II did not try out this programm as it is currently out of stock.

Conclusion ABR’s psychoacoustic technology is based on the use of complex tonal matrices in which various sound patterns are mixed, many of those are beneath the level of audible hearing, masked by other sounds or music composed for the desired mental/emotional state. Additionally, these programs make use of the BioPulseTM Technology, as well as other technologies mentioned above in order to directly create more resourceful brain states. The tapes are designed for specific purposes like relaxation or enhanced brain performance. And while the ABR tapes are – due to a certain degree of stress reduction they all bring about besides the other effects– beneficial for the listener in a holistic way, they work much like a painkiller: There is an instant result, yet, like a painkiller does not work on the cause for the headache but only masks the symptoms, these tapes do not target the root of a persons’ troubles.

They stay on the level of the body and the mind whithout minding the soul. But as all kinds of illness – mental, emotional or physical, originate in an imbalance between Mind and Soul, there can be no real healing whithout taking both parties into account. Therefore, I consider the tapes developed by ABR as a valuable tool for reducing stress and discomfort but in order to get long-term results and a stable developmen of the self, an in – depth treatment like Naad Yoga is required. The anecdotal data presented by ABR were interesting, though – some of the observed effects of the ABR technologies might also apply to Naad Yoga: • By using a combination of language and music, Naad Yoga probably also activates both hemispheres of the brain. •

The indian taals might have a similar effect on the brain like the BioPulseTM Technology, entraining the mind into different brain states. •

The Raags induce specifc moods in the listener and this might lead to changes in the brainwave pattern. • By re-establishing a balance between mind and soul, Naad Yoga leads to balance on the physical level and reduced stress. This should be visible on the level of brain wave patterning but also on the level of body chemistry, for example the levels of stress hormons and endorphins, blood pressure, basic muscle tension etc. Looking into “scientifc” ways of sound healing made me think about ways to document the effects of Naad Yoga. A scientifc study of Naad Yoga might lead to interesting results and a broader acceptance of Naad Yoga as a method of healing. A few ideas about how this kind of study could be done: •

Monitoring a group of people via EEG while listening to different Raags and comparing the results with those of a control group listening to other kinds of music. Ideally, not only once but several times over a period of 40 days, and then again afte some time has passed – this should also show if the 40 days lead to long term – changes in the brain. This could also be combined with monitoring phsysical stress makers as mentioned above. •

Monitoring a group of people suffering from some physical illness receiving Naad Yoga treatment and comparing the speed of recovery to a group of people that does not receive a Naad Yoga treatment.

The question here would be if the test subjects need to be selected from people having all the same illness in order to ensure scientific credibility. • Another way,would be to study the effects of Raags on cells in cell culture. Here the speed of growth and the resilience of the cells towards challenging conditions (lower or higher pH – values, low nutrient concentration, antibiotics, heat or cold etc.) could be monitored and compared to control samples receiving no musical treatment and/or samples treated with other kinds of music. As Naad Yoga targets emotions and the balance between mind and soul, there is no way to predict if Raags cause any measurable effect on cells outside the human body. On the other hand, there are many reports from scientist hinting at effects of music on the level of cells and even the genome, one of them was late Dr. S. Ohno, a renowned geneticist at Beckmann Research Institute in Duarte, California. He managed to transcibe the genetical code into music. References (1) Website www.tomkenyon.com (2) Brain States, Tom Kenyon, M.A., World Tree Press, 2001.