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Research on Binaural Beats

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Research on Binaural Beats

Here are some studies published in established peer-reviewed medical journals found on PubMed in reverse chronological order. Major points in the abstracts have been underlined.

A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery.
Anaesthesia. 2005 Sep;60(9):874-7. Padmanabhan R, Hildreth AJ, Laws D. Sunderland Royal Hospital, Sunderland, SR4 7TP, UK.

Pre-operative anxiety is common and often significant. Ambulatory surgery challenges our pre-operative goal of an anxiety-free patient by requiring people to be 'street ready' within a brief period of time after surgery. Recently, it has been demonstrated that music can be used successfully to relieve patient anxiety before operations, and that audio embedded with tones that create binaural beats within the brain of the listener decreases subjective levels of anxiety in patients with chronic anxiety states. We measured anxiety with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory questionnaire and compared binaural beat audio (Binaural Group) with an identical soundtrack but without these added tones (Audio Group) and with a third group who received no specific intervention (No Intervention Group). Mean [95% confidence intervals] decreases in anxiety scores were 26.3%[19-33%] in the Binaural Group (p = 0.001 vs. Audio Group, p < 0.0001 vs. No Intervention Group), 11.1%[6-16%] in the Audio Group (p = 0.15 vs. No Intervention Group) and 3.8%[0-7%] in the No Intervention Group. Binaural beat audio has the potential to decrease acute pre-operative anxiety significantly.

Human auditory steady state responses to binaural and monaural beats.
Clin Neurophysiol. 2005 Mar;116(3):658-68. Schwarz DW, Taylor P. Department of Surgery (Otolaryngology) and Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 2B5.

OBJECTIVE: Binaural beat sensations depend upon a central combination of two different temporally encoded tones, separately presented to the two ears. We tested the feasibility to record an auditory steady state evoked response (ASSR) at the binaural beat frequency in order to find a measure for temporal coding of sound in the human EEG. METHODS: We stimulated each ear with a distinct tone, both differing in frequency by 40Hz, to record a binaural beat ASSR. As control, we evoked a beat ASSR in response to both tones in the same ear. We band-pass filtered the EEG at 40Hz, averaged with respect to stimulus onset and compared ASSR amplitudes and phases, extracted from a sinusoidal non-linear regression fit to a 40Hz period average. RESULTS: A 40Hz binaural beat ASSR was evoked at a low mean stimulus frequency (400Hz) but became undetectable beyond 3kHz. Its amplitude was smaller than that of the acoustic beat ASSR, which was evoked at low and high frequencies. Both ASSR types had maxima at fronto-central leads and displayed a fronto-occipital phase delay of several ms. CONCLUSIONS: The dependence of the 40Hz binaural beat ASSR on stimuli at low, temporally coded tone frequencies suggests that it may objectively assess temporal sound coding ability. The phase shift across the electrode array is evidence for more than one origin of the 40Hz oscillations. SIGNIFICANCE: The binaural beat ASSR is an evoked response, with novel diagnostic potential, to a signal that is not present in the stimulus, but generated within the brain.

Use of binaural beat tapes for treatment of anxiety: a pilot study of tape preference and outcomes.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 Jan;7(1):58-63. Le Scouarnec RP, Poirier RM, Owens JE, Gauthier J, Taylor AG, Foresman PA. Clinique Psych in Montreal, Quebec.

CONTEXT: Recent studies and anecdotal reports suggest that binaural auditory beats can affect mood, performance on vigilance tasks, and anxiety.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether mildly anxious people would report decreased anxiety after listening daily for 1 month to tapes imbedded with tones that create binaural beats, and whether they would show a definite tape preference among 3 tapes.
DESIGN: A 1-group pre-posttest pilot study. SETTING: Patients' homes.
PARTICIPANTS: A volunteer sample of 15 mildly anxious patients seen in the Clinique Psych, Montreal, Quebec.
INTERVENTION: Participants were asked to listen at least 5 times weekly for 4 weeks to 1 or more of 3 music tapes containing tones that produce binaural beats in the electroencephalogram delta/theta frequency range. Participants also were asked to record tape usage, tape preference, and anxiety ratings in a journal before and after listening to the tape or tapes.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Anxiety ratings before and after tape listening, pre- and post-study State-Trait Anxiety Inventory scores, and tape preferences documented in daily journals.
RESULTS: Listening to the binaural beat tapes resulted in a significant reduction in the anxiety score reported daily in patients' diaries. The number of times participants listened to the tapes in 4 weeks ranged from 10 to 17 (an average of 1.4 to 2.4 times per week) for approximately 30 minutes per session. End-of-study tape preferences indicated that slightly more participants preferred tape B, with its pronounced and extended patterns of binaural beats, over tapes A and C. Changes in pre- and posttest listening State-Trait Anxiety Inventory scores trended toward a reduction of anxiety, but these differences were not statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS: Listening to binaural beat tapes in the delta/theta electroencephalogram range may be beneficial in reducing mild anxiety. Future studies should account for music preference among participants and include age as a factor in outcomes, incentives to foster tape listening, and a physiologic measure of anxiety reduction. A controlled trial that includes binaural beat tapes as an adjunctive treatment to conventional therapy for mild anxiety may be warranted.

Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood.
Physiol Behav. 1998 Jan;63(2):249-52. Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR. Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.

When two tones of slightly different frequency are presented separately to the left and right ears the listener perceives a single tone that varies in amplitude at a frequency equal to the frequency difference between the two tones, a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat. Anecdotal reports suggest that binaural auditory beats within the electroencephalograph frequency range can entrain EEG activity and may affect states of consciousness, although few scientific studies have been published. This study compared the effects of binaural auditory beats in the EEG beta and EEG theta/delta frequency ranges on mood and on performance of a vigilance task to investigate their effects on subjective and objective measures of arousal. Participants (n = 29) performed a 30-min visual vigilance task on three different days while listening to pink noise containing simple tones or binaural beats either in the beta range (16 and 24 Hz) or the theta/delta range (1.5 and 4 Hz). However, participants were kept blind to the presence of binaural beats to control expectation effects. Presentation of beta-frequency binaural beats yielded more correct target detections and fewer false alarms than presentation of theta/delta frequency binaural beats. In addition, the beta-frequency beats were associated with less negative mood. Results suggest that the presentation of binaural auditory beats can affect psychomotor performance and mood. This technology may have applications for the control of attention and arousal and the enhancement of human performance.

Application of binaural beat phenomenon with aphasic patients.
Arch Otolaryngol. 1977 Apr;103(4):192-4. Barr DF, Mullin TA, Herbert PS.

We investigated whether six aphasics and six normal subjects could binaurally fuse two slightly differing frequencies of constant amplitude. The aphasics were subdivided into two groups: (1) two men who had had mild cerebrovascular accidents (CVAs) during the past 15 months; (2) four men who had had severe CVAs during the last 15 months. Two tones of different frequency levels but equal in intensity were presented dichotically to the subjects at 40 dB sensation level. All subjects had normal hearing at 500 Hz (0 to 25 dB). All six normal subjects and the two aphasics who had had mild CVAs could hear the binaural beats. The four aphasics who had had severe CVAs could not hear them. A 2 X 2 design resulting from this study was compared using chi2 test with Yates correction and was found to be significantly different (P less than .05). Two theories are presented to explain these findings: the "depression theory" and the "temporal time-sequencing theory." Therapeutic implications are also discussed relative to cerebral and/or brain stem involvement in the fusion of binaural stimuli.

For other research on binaural beats, please search for it in PubMed
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