The Science Behind Meditation

An overview of the benefits,
plus recent research.

The Proven Benefits


When we are truly relaxed both mentally and physically, there are changes in the brain wave patterns until it is predominantly located and fixed within the alpha, theta and delta states. Within this particular state the brain triggers chemicals known as endorphins. This chemical trigger is experienced as a feeling of well being, and meditation is one of the easiest ways to achieve it. Moreover, these good feelings linger long after the meditation session has ended. There are real physical benefits as well, as these endorphins boost and recharge the immune system, helping you to fight off all kinds of infections.

Specific demonstrated benefits include:

  • Lower heart rate and reduced work load of the heart.
  • Reduction of free radicals - unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage.
  • Decreased high blood pressure.
  • Higher skin resistance. Low skin resistance is correlated with higher stress and anxiety levels.
  • Drop in cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is associated with cardiovascular disease.
  • Improved flow of air to the lungs, resulting in easier breathing. This has been very helpful to asthma patients.

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Increased GABA Levels

GABA Molecule

A regular meditation practice will considerably increase levels of the neurotransmitters GABA. GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter.  Neurotransmitters are chemicals that facilitate communication between nerve cells.  GABA, which is produced by the brain, suppresses nerve impulses related to stress, anxiety, depression and epilepsy.  In a healthy, well-nourished person, the brain produces sufficient amounts of GABA to stabilize these mental disorders.  People with insomnia and other sleep disorders are often found to have low levels of GABA.  In addition, GABA may have some value in helping to alleviate chronic pain. While not an analgesic, it can lessen the intensity of pain by easing the stress and anxiety that can contribute to it.  Insight meditation will have the intended effect of increasing levels of GABA in your brain, and lead to less anxiety, stress, and help create restful sleep.

raise Serotonin levels

GABA Molecule

Meditation increases levels of the neurotransmiter Serotonin.  Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter. It is found extensively in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, and about 80 to 90 percent of the human body's total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the gut, where it is used to regulate intestinal movements. The remainder is synthesized in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system where it has various functions, including the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions including memory and learning.  Depleted serotonin levels are linked to depression, obesity, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraines, premenstrual syndrome, and fibromyalgia. It is used in treating anxiety and depression related disorders. A class of drugs called Specific Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft boost serotonin levels by preventing the brain's reuptake after they have been secreted, however, a consistent daily meditation practice has shown to be more effective than taking SSRI drugs, and does not have any of the associated negative side effects commonly displayed by patients taking these antidepressants.  A study published in the Journal of Neuronal Transmission (1976) reported a significant increase in 5-hydroxytryptamine (Serotonin) in test subjects immediately following meditation. 

Build DHEA

GABA Molecule

Meditators have higher levels of the hormone DHEA.  Low levels of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) are strongly associated with heart attack risk, chronic fatigue, low energy levels, reduced stamina, difficulty losing weight, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, low sex drive, cancer, obesity, increased stress and hypoglycemia.  One study compared the DHEA levels of meditators between the age of forty and fifty years with the DHEA levels of a control group of non-meditators. It was found that the meditating men had a 23% higher level of DHEA as the non-meditators and in woman the difference was even much more pronounced. As we know now, the hormone DHEA is needed for a wide range of biological functions and a lower level of DHEA has been associated with a decreased ability to concentrate.  Healthy levels of DHEA enhance long and short term memory, alleviate depression, and lead to an increase in mental and physical states of well-being.  DHEA is also responsible for strengthening the immune system and low DHEA levels have been determined to be a contributing factor for the immune system's degradation in the elderly.  DHEA also improves sleep, helps with stress management, and increases libido.\

Produce Melatonin Naturally

GABA Molecule

Meditation increases levels of the hormone Melatonin.  Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain, that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.  The philosopher Rene Descartes called this tiny gland "the seat of the soul". In the Hindu spiritual tradition, meditation techniques are used to direct energy flow through seven energy centers in the body, or chakras, and selectively activate or suppress their associated glands. The pineal gland corresponds to a chakra located at the top of the head and is believed to influence happiness.  The scientific connection between melatonin and meditation was first explored in 1995 by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center's Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. Since melatonin is produced mainly at night, overnight urine samples were collected and tested for 6-sulphatoxymelatonin, a melatonin breakdown product thought to be an accurate reflection of blood melatonin levels.  Researchers found that subjects who meditated had significantly higher melatonin levels compared with subjects who did not.  Another study found that meditation before bedtime increased melatonin levels for that night. No increases in blood melatonin levels were noted on nights where participants didn't meditate. This suggests that the regular practice of meditation is necessary to increase and stabilize melatonin levels.

Regulate Cortisol production

GABA Molecule

Our bodies naturally produce the hormone Cortisol. However if we over produce this hormone we put ourselves into a danger zone. Cortisol production increases significantly and in relationship to elevated stress levels. When we are at high stress levels as a result of life situations, lifestyle effects, or whatever our own particular set of stressors are, the cortisol levels rise, and with these increased levels, we also see a corresponding increase in abdominal fat.  Having a lot of abdominal fat has been revealed by doctors to be a contributing factor to heart disease and other illnesses including high blood pressure, and impaired cognitive functions to name a few. With the condition of excess belly fat also comes the chance that this condition affects our cholesterol levels negatively. 

Meditation has been shown repeatedly in many clinical studies to decrease cortisol levels and return them to normal healthy levels.  Chentanez et. al. (1991) studied the effects of buddhist insight meditation on cortisol levels. It was found that after meditation, serum cortisol levels were significantly reduced, serum total protein level significantly increased, and systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate significantly reduced as a result of insight meditation when compared to the control scenario.  PMID: 1801007

Increase HGH Secretion

GABA Molecule

Meditation has been shown to increase secretion of HGH (human growth hormone).  HGH is a peptide hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain. HGH enhances tissue growth by stimulating protein formation.  HGH is considered "the key" hormone because it controls so many functions. It is responsible for youth, vitality, energy and all of the health benefits we associate with youth. A study by Dr. Daniel Rudman in the New England Journal Of Medicine (1990) demonstrated the remarkable ability to reverse the effects of aging upon the human body with the employment of HGH on men between the ages of 61 and 80 years of age.  The men did not alter their personal habits of eating, smoking, or exercise, yet with the consumption of HGH, they lost an average of 14% of their body fat, while gaining an average of 8.8% lean muscle mass. Their skin became firmer and they experienced a localized increase in bone density. Over all, HGH appeared to reverse the effects of aging by 10-20 years.

Bevan et al. (1979) studied the short-term endocrine changes of five experienced meditators before, during, and after a thirty-minute period of meditation. Serum HGH concentrations after meditation increased to 50% above premeditation values.  There was no change in the same subjects during a comparable nonmeditation experimental period involving light conversation and/or reading.

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Meditation & Binaural Research


Binaural Audio Research

Kliempt, Ruta, Ogston, Landeck & Martay (2000) "Hemispheric-synchronisation during anaesthesia: a double-blind randomised trial using audiotapes for intra-operative nociception control", PMID 10460529

Thaut MH (2003). "Neural basis of rhythmic timing networks in the human brain". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 999: 364-73. doi:10.1196/annals.1284.044. PMID 14681157.

Gerken GM, Moushegian G, Stillman RD, Rupert AL (1975). "Human frequency-following responses to monaural and binaural stimuli". Electroencephalography and clinical neurophysiology 38 (4): 379-86. doi:10.1016/0013-4694(75)90262-X. PMID 46818.

Dobie RA, Norton SJ (1980). "Binaural interaction in human auditory evoked potentials". Electroencephalography and clinical neurophysiology 49 (3-4): 303-13. doi:10.1016/0013-4694(80)90224-2. PMID 6158406.

Schwarz DW, Taylor P (2005). "Human auditory steady state responses to binaural and monaural beats". Clinical neurophysiology : official journal of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology 116 (3): 658-68. doi:10.1016/j.clinph.2004.09.014. PMID 15721080.

Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR (1998). "Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood". Physiol. Behav. 63 (2): 249 -52. PMID 9423966.

Peniston EG, Kulkosky PJ (1989). "Alpha-theta brainwave training and beta-endorphin levels in alcoholics". Alcohol. Clin. Exp. Res. 13 (2): 271-9. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.1989.tb00325.x. PMID 2524976.

Wahbeh H, Calabrese C, Zwickey H (2007). "Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects". Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) 13 (1): 25-32. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.6196. PMID 17309374.

Saxby E, Peniston EG (1995). "Alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback training: an effective treatment for male and female alcoholics with depressive symptoms". Journal of clinical psychology 51 (5): 685-93. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(199509)51:5<685::AID-JCLP2270510514>3.0.CO;2-K. PMID 8801245.

Le Scouarnec RP, Poirier RM, Owens JE, Gauthier J, Taylor AG, Foresman PA. (2001). "Use of binaural beat tapes for treatment of anxiety: a pilot study of tape preference and outcomes". Altern Ther Health Med. (Clinique Psych in Montreal, Quebec.) 7 (1): 58-63. PMID 11191043.

Padmanabhan R, Hildreth AJ, Laws D (2005). "A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery". Anaesthesia 60 (9): 874-7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2044.2005.04287.x. PMID 16115248.


Insight Meditation Research

Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K. (1991). "Effect of Buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time." Integrative physiological and behavioral science: the official journal of the Pavlovian Society.  Pubmed Abstract PMID: 1801007

Maison, A.; Herbert, J.R.; Werheimer, M.d.; & Kabat-Zinn, J. (1995). "Meditation, melatonin and breast/prostate cancer: hypothesis and preliminary data,". Medical Hypotheses 44 (1): 39-46. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(95)90299-6.

Perez-De-Albeniz, Alberto; Jeremy Holmes (March 2000). "Meditation: concepts, effects and uses in therapy". International Journal of Psychotherapy 5 (1): 49-59. doi:10.1080/13569080050020263.

Lazar, S.W.; Bush, G.; Gollub, R. L.; Fricchione, G. L.; Khalsa, G.; Benson, H. Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation" NeuroReport: Volume 11(7) 15 May 2000 pp. 1581-1585 PubMed abstract PMID 10841380

Kabat-Zinn, Jon; Lipworth L, Burney R. (1985). "The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain". Journal of Behavioral Medicine 8 (2): 163-190. doi:10.1007/BF00845519. PMID 3897551.

Davidson, Richard J.; et al. (2003 July-August). "Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation". Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (4): 564-570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3. PMID 12883106.

Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhaneh M, et al. (June 2007). "Meditation practices for health: state of the research" (pdf). Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep) (155): 1-263. PMID 17764203.

Lutz, Antoine; Richard J. Davidson; et al. (2004). "Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101 (November 16): 16369. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407401101. PMID 15534199.

Lazar, Sara W. (2005) "Mindfulness Research." In: Mindfulness and Psychotherapy. Germer C, Siegel RD, Fulton P (eds.) New York: Guildford Press.

Kutz I, Borysenko JZ, Benson H. (1985) Meditation and psychotherapy: a rationale for the integration of dynamic psychotherapy, the relaxation response, and mindfulness meditation. American Journal of Psychiatry, Jan;142(1):1-8. PubMed abstract PMID 3881049

Craven JL. (1989) Meditation and psychotherapy. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Oct;34(7):648-53. PubMed abstract PMID 2680046

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Research (Abstracts)

Hemispheric-synchronisation during anaesthesia: a double-blind randomised trial using audiotapes for intra-operative nociception control. Anaesthesia. 1999 Aug;54(8):769-73.

Kliempt P, Ruta D, Ogston S, Landeck A, Martay K.

Department of Epidemiology, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK.

The possible antinociceptive effect of hemispheric-synchronised sounds, classical music and blank tape were investigated in patients undergoing surgery under general anaesthesia. The study was performed on 76 patients, ASA 1 or 2, aged 18-75 years using a double-blind randomised design. Each of the three tapes was allocated to the patients according to a computer-generated random number table. General anaesthesia was standardised and consisted of propofol, nitrous oxide 66%/oxygen 33%, isoflurane and fentanyl. Patients breathed spontaneously through a laryngeal mask and the end-tidal isoflurane concentration was maintained near to its minimum alveolar concentration value of 1.2%. Fentanyl was given intravenously sufficient to keep the intra-operative heart rate and arterial blood pressure within 20% of pre-operative baseline values and the fentanyl requirements were used as a measure of nociception control. Patients to whom hemispheric-synchronised sounds were played under general anaesthesia required significantly less fentanyl compared with patients listening to classical music or blank tape (mean values: 28 microgram, 124 microgram and 126 microg, respectively) (p < 0.001). This difference remained significant when regression analysis was used to control for the effects of age and sex.

PMID: 10460529 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Neural basis of rhythmic timing networks in the human brain. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Nov;999:364-73.

Thaut MH.

Center for Biomedical Research in Music, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.

The study of rhythmicity provides insights into the understanding of temporal coding of music and temporal information processing in the human brain. Auditory rhythms rapidly entrain motor responses into stable steady synchronization states below and above conscious perception thresholds. Studying the neural dynamics of entrainment by measuring brain wave responses (MEG) we found nonlinear scaling of M100 amplitudes generated in primary auditory cortex relative to changes in the period of the rhythmic interval during subliminal and supraliminal tempo modulations. In recent brain imaging studies we have described the neural networks involved in motor synchronization to auditory rhythm. Activated regions include primary sensorimotor and cingulate areas, bilateral opercular premotor areas, bilateral SII, ventral prefrontal cortex, and, subcortically, anterior insula, putamen, and thalamus. Within the cerebellum, vermal regions and anterior hemispheres ipsilateral to the movement became significantly activated. Tracking temporal modulations additionally activated predominantly right prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and intraparietal regions as well as posterior cerebellar hemispheres. Furthermore, strong evidence exists for the substantial benefits of rhythmic stimuli in rehabilitation training with motor disorders.

PMID: 14681157 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Human frequency-following responses to monaural and binaural stimuli. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1975 Apr;38(4):379-86.

Gerken GM, Moushegian G, Stillman RD, Rupert AL.

Frequency-following responses, with latencies circa 6 msec, were recorded from five normal-hearing human subjects to brief 500 c/sec tone bursts presented monaurally. The frequency-following responses appear as peaks occurring at 2 msec intervals superimposed on a slow wave (pedestal-like) component. Comparisons were made between the frequency-following responses evoked by binaural and monaural stimuli. The results show that the binaural responses may be interpreted as the sum of two monaural responses. It is concluded, therefore, that there are two independent populations of neurons, each capable of generating a frequency-following response is not a microphonic-like response but rather that the individual waves in the frequency-following response are evoked by the collective activity of phase-locked single units. Finally, on the basis of the distinctness of the individual waves in the frequency-following response, it is concluded that the neural generators of the response must be spatially compact.

PMID: 46818 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Binaural interaction in human auditory evoked potentials. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1980 Aug;49(3-4):303-13.

Dobie RA, Norton SJ.

Binaural interaction (BI) in auditory evoked potentials was defined as any deviation from the predictions of a model which assumes two independent populations of neurons whose outputs are, in the far field, simply additive. Monaural responses are added to yield the model's prediction of binaurally evoked response; this trace is then subtracted from the actual binaural response to yield a difference trace which is considered to represent BI. In a previous study, strong BI was seen in guinea pig BSEP, maximal at about 4 msec latency; the interaction was greatest for simultaneous (delta t = 0) stimuli of equal intensitsy (delta I = 0). Sixteen normal young adults had BSEP and middle-latency auditory evoked potentials (middle AEP) recorded in response to binaural and monaural clicks. Although BI (in the 6 msec latency region) was observed in the difference trace for the majority of subjects' BSEP, there were no significant differences between binaural and predicted-binaural responses in the group means for individual peak amplitudes and latencies. In middle AEP, the amplitude of peak Pa was usually much smaller in binaurally evoked responses than in the predicted-binaural response. Four subjects had middle AEP which were felt to be predominantly myogenic on the basis of short latency and large amplitude; these responses demonstrated a reverse pattern of interaction, with binaural responses much larger than the monaural sums.

PMID: 6158406 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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.

PMID: 15721080 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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.

PMID: 9423966 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Alpha-theta brainwave training and beta-endorphin levels in alcoholics. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1989 Apr;13(2):271-9.

Peniston EG, Kulkosky PJ.

Veterans Administration Medical Center, Fort Lyon, Colorado 81038.

An alpha-theta brainwave biofeedfack training program was applied as a novel treatment technique for chronic alcoholics. Following a temperature biofeedback pretraining phase, experimental subjects completed 15 30-min sessions of alpha-theta biofeedback training. Compared to a nonalcoholic control group and a traditionally treated alcoholic control group, alcoholics receiving brainwave training (BWT) showed significant increases in percentages of EEG record in alpha and theta rhythms, and increased alpha rhythm amplitudes. Alcoholics receiving BWT showed a gradual increase in alpha and theta brain rhythms across the 15 experimental sessions. These experimentally treated alcoholics showed sharp reductions in self-assessed depression (Beck's Depression Inventory) compared to the control groups. Alcoholics receiving standard medical treatment (abstinence, group psychotherapy, antidepressants) showed a significant elevation in serum beta-endorphin levels at the conclusion of the experiment. This neuropeptide is an index of stress and a stimulant of caloric (e.g., ethanol) intake. Application of brainwave treatment, a relaxation therapy, appears to counteract the increase in circulating beta-endorphin levels seen in the control group of alcoholics. 13-month follow-up data indicate sustained prevention of relapse in alcoholics that completed alpha-theta brainwave training.

PMID: 2524976 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects. J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):25-32.

Wahbeh H, Calabrese C, Zwickey H.

Helfgott Research Institute, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, OR 97201, USA.

INTRODUCTION: Binaural beat technology (BBT) products are sold internationally as personal development and health improvement tools. Producers suggest benefit from regular listening to binaural beats including reduced stress and anxiety, and increased focus, concentration, motivation, confidence, and depth in meditation. Binaural beats are auditory brainstem responses that originate in the superior olivary nucleus as a result of different frequency auditory stimuli provided to each ear. Listeners to binaural beat "hear" a beat at a frequency equal to the difference between the frequencies of the applied tones. OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this pilot study were to gather preliminary data on psychologic and physiologic effects of 60 days daily use of BBT for hypothesis generation and to assess compliance, feasibility, and safety for future studies. DESIGN: Uncontrolled pilot study. SUBJECTS: Eight healthy adults participated in the study. INTERVENTION: Participants listened to a CD with delta (0-4 Hz) binaural beat frequencies daily for 60 days. OUTCOME MEASURES: Psychologic and physiological data were collected before and after a 60-day intervention. PSYCHOLOGIC: Depression (Beck Depression Inventory-2), anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), mood (Profile of Mood States), absorption (Tellegen Absorption Scale) and quality of Life (World Health Organization-Quality of Life Inventory). PHYSIOLOGICAL: Cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone, melatonin, insulin-like growth factor-1, serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, weight, blood pressure, high sensitivity C-reactive protein. RESULTS: There was a decrease in trait anxiety (p = 0.004), an increase in quality of life (p = 0.03), and a decrease in insulin-like growth factor-1 (p = 0.01) and dopamine (p = 0.02) observed between pre- and postintervention measurements. CONCLUSIONS: Binaural beat technology may exhibit positive effect on self-reported psychologic measures, especially anxiety. Further research is warranted to explore the effects on anxiety using a larger, randomized and controlled trial.

PMID: 17309374 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback training: an effective treatment for male and female alcoholics with depressive symptoms. J Clin Psychol. 1995 Sep;51(5):685-93.

Saxby E, Peniston EG.

Biofeedback Center, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA.

This was an experimental study of 14 alcoholic outpatients using the Peniston and Kulkosky (1989, 1991) brainwave treatment protocol for alcohol abuse. After temperature biofeedback pretraining, experimental subjects completed 20 40-minute sessions of alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback training (BWNT). Experimentally treated alcoholics with depressive syndrome showed sharp reductions in self-assessed depression (Beck's Depression Inventory). On the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-I, the experimental subjects showed significant decreases on the BR scores: schizoid, avoidant, dependent, histrionic, passive-aggression, schizotypal, borderline, anxiety, somatoform, hypomanic, dysthmic, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, psychotic thinking, and psychotic depression. Twenty-one-month follow-up data indicated sustained prevention of relapse in alcoholics who completed BWNT.

PMID: 8801245 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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 Psyché 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 Psyché, 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.

PMID: 11191043 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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.

PMID: 16115248 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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