How sound influences our brainwaves

How sound influences our brainwaves

Knowledge of brainwaves is more than 100 years old. The neurologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger discovered them as part of his research work - and since then, science and research have been looking at the different types of brainwaves, the different states of consciousness and their influence on our well-being. Research into how sound influences our brainwaves is relatively recent in comparison. And yet surprisingly significant results are already emerging that prove that sound influences our brainwaves more strongly than long assumed.

What brainwaves are there?

Brain waves can be measured. In research, an electroencephalograph, also known as an EEG, is used for this purpose. This does not measure the activity of individual brain cells, but the interaction of many millions of cells, which are all active at the same time and thus form an electrical pattern. The activity of the brain cells has a significant influence on our state of consciousness:

  • Gamma brainwaves (32 to 100 Hz): In this state of consciousness, people are considered to be particularly alert and receptive, able to learn, solve problems and perceive dangers. The brain runs at full speed, which is effective but also exhausting for us.
  • Beta brain waves (13 to 32 Hz): In normal, active consciousness, the human brain moves at beta frequency. This state describes our active thinking, but the brain also moves in the beta range in stressful situations.
  • Alpha brain waves (8 to 13 Hz): In a relaxed state, the human brain operates in the alpha range. Physical relaxation is also possible in this frequency range.
  • Theta brain waves (4 to 8 Hz): The theta frequency is considered a particularly creative state. Deep insight and meditation are possible here, consciousness is reduced and the focus is on the inner self.
  • Delta brain waves (0.5 to 4 Hz): In deep sleep, the brain reduces the wave pattern to a minimum - this is known as delta brain waves. Dreams also do not take place during this phase.

The influence of meditation on brain waves

Neuroscience is actively studying the characteristics of human brain waves. Recent studies have found clear differences between experienced meditators and non-meditators: Those who meditate regularly seem to be able to control their brainwaves more easily than other people through voluntary thought control. This makes it easier to reach states of consciousness in which relaxation, creativity and insight are possible in order to let go of everyday stress and enter a state of calm.

How singing bowls and gongs influence brainwaves

Meditation is often supported by sound. For example, sound therapy proves to be a suitable measure for influencing brain waves and thus contributing to an improved sense of well-being. The frequencies of a gong or a singing bowl are considered to be special supporters for moving from one brain state to another. For this reason, gong baths are also becoming increasingly popular. The sounds of the gong make it possible to focus the mind, slow it down and enter a different vibrational state. When the brain vibrates in alpha and theta waves during meditation, healing and realignment can take place.

In Germany, Peter Hess was an important sound pioneer who played a key role in researching and establishing sound methods in science. Together with researchers from the fields of medicine and psychotherapy, he has developed various sound methods, in which singing bowls is also used in particular. The evidence for sound therapy has been scientifically researched and proven. 

Studies and analyses on the effect of sound

A study carried out at the Research Department of Applied Consciousness Sciences at Regensburg University Hospital in collaboration with the International Association of Sound Massage Therapy was able to demonstrate the positive neuropsychological effects of sound massage. The study investigated the effects of a singing bowl massage on brain activity and well-being. It was found that massage with sound led to more relaxed brain activity. The participants also reported positive changes in their well-being, such as increased balance and vitality.

An analysis by Tamara L. and Michael E. Goldsby also stands out, which was largely concerned with people suffering from chronic stress - exacerbated not least by the effects of recent years, but also by everyday work stress and family problems. The study investigated how movement-based therapies (such as yoga), acupuncture and traditional sound healing techniques affect brain waves. One thing is clear: although research into the influence of sound on brain waves is still relatively new, the results are already promising. For example, playing vibrating instruments has been shown to have a strong relaxing effect, which could also be physically proven by measuring the heart rate and brain waves.

How are brain waves influenced by sound?

During the sound play, the meditative experience is brought about by the fact that the different sounds stimulate the brain and put it in a state in which relaxation and calm are possible. Monotonous sound sequences are not suitable for this; instead, a pulsating sound that remains in a state of change is required. Similar reactions in the brain have been shown with changes in light and electromagnetic fields.

The changing and shifting sounds in the sound game are therefore intended to change the frequency sequences in the brain in order to step out of the everyday alpha phase and stimulate the theta brain waves, which stand for creativity and relaxation. The sound waves in the brain adapt to the frequency of the sound in order to put the mind into a state that is otherwise difficult to achieve - a state of meditation or trance. In sound therapy, the brain waves also change according to a fixed sequence:

  • In the first step, the brain waves move on the alpha frequency, which also guides us through everyday life, but allows us to relax. 
  • If you concentrate on the sounds, the outside world fades away and your thoughts fall silent. 
  • As the sound play progresses, the brain waves also slow down so that the theta frequency is reached. Deep meditation is possible in this state.

Find relaxation with theta brainwaves

For a long time, it was difficult for researchers and scientists to study people with brain waves at theta frequency in more detail. Many test subjects tend to fall asleep as soon as the brain reaches this frequency - making research impossible. It was only through collaboration with experienced meditators, who regularly reach the theta frequency even when awake and use it for themselves, that research could be advanced. Today, we benefit all the more from the revealing results of this science. 

If you want to experience how sounds can influence your brainwaves, give your body and mind enough time to adjust to the new states. It is not unusual for you to feel tired at first and perhaps fall asleep - this is a sign that your body is experiencing relaxation and rest. It takes some practice not to fall asleep and to use the theta state of the brain for more creativity and well-being and to keep your consciousness in this frequency range. 

Encouraging creativity with sound

Sound can also have a major influence on your creativity. Biofeedback researcher Dr. Budzynski from the University of Colorado found in ananalysis that people whose brain waves are in the theta range are able to learn new things within a very short time and allow their creativity to flow outwards. This allows talents hidden in the subconscious to be brought to the surface or completely new talents to be discovered. In our guide "How to promote your creativity with the gong", we take a closer look at this topic.

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