Tom Kenyon
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Theoretical Constructs of ABR Technology

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Acoustic Brain Research

What is Psychoacoustics?

Psychoacoustics, a newly emerging field of human potential technology, promises to radically affect human behavior through its study of sound, language, and music and their effects on the brain/mind. You will notice that we write brain/mind linked together. This is based on Dr. Carl Pribram’s view of the brain and “the mind,” which is that “the mind” is a process which runs parallel to physiological processes within the brain. Thus it is possible to have a brain without a mind, as in a cadaver, but it is not possible to have a mind without a functioning brain — at least not the way we normally think of mental/emotional experience. (This is not to say that there may not be some aspect of consciousness which operates independently of brain processing, simply that brain processing is crucial to normal everyday experience.) In the following pages we would like to introduce some of the basic concepts in Psychoacoustics and discuss the research findings pertinent to ABR recordings.

Sound and Music

For centuries music and sound have been used for “healing” and transformation. From the guttural chanting of ancient shamans to the lofty Gregorian chants of the cathedrals, sound and music have played a central role in the culture of humanity. Only recently have we begun to understand the physiological effects of sound and music on the brain. In the following section we will discuss their background and ramifications in the technology of Psychoacousatics.

We know that music can play a crucial role in brain processing. The work of Dr. Lozanov in Bulgaria confirms this. He discovered that music at 60 beats per minute, as used in the Largo movements of Baroque music, increased alpha activity by 6% associated with relaxation and decreased beta activity (normal waking state) by 6%. Pulse slowed by an average of 4 divisions of mercury. Subjects reported a “relaxed awareness”.

In a study conducted by Dr. Sue Chapman at a New York City Hospital, the response of premature infants to music was studied. One group listened to Brahms lullaby (stringed version) six times a day, while a control group listened to nothing. The group of infants who listened to Brahms gained weight faster, had fewer complications and were released from the hospital an average of a week earlier than those babies who did not listen to Brahms.

What happened?

From the perspective of Psychoacoustics it is very clear. The architecture of the music, the rhythm and the timbre all created changes in brain processing through stimulation of the auditory pathways. These changes in the infants’ brain processing greatly reduced their stress levels, thereby allowing their natural “healing” abilities to engage more efficiently than those in the control group.

The vibratory nature of sound and music creates a language which the body and mind understand. By language we do not mean “words,” we mean “information.” Indeed our word “information” comes from the Latin stem “informare” which means form or shape. From this perspective, music is a process of changing acoustic shapes and forms. If you were to look at the shapes and forms made by music you would see organic shapes reminiscent of mountains, valleys, trees, microorganisms and galaxies. The study of the shapes created by music and sound is called Cymatics, and has resulted primarily from the work of two men: Dr. Hans Jenny and Dr. Guy Manners. These researchers have collected numerous photographs of cymatic patterns which are made by sending sound vibrations through a metal plate covered with various resonant mediums, such as iron filings or sand. In some cases a tonoscope was used which records the patterns electronically. These studies show that music does indeed create a kind of language.

As with all language there is the concept of syntax. Normally syntax is a term reserved for written or spoken speech. It refers to the order in which words appear. If you change the order of words in a sentence, you change the meaning. This concept can also be extended to music. If you scramble the notes in a musical composition, you have changed it. The order of the information (notes) in music is just as crucial as the order of the information (words) in speech. When we think of sound and music as a language, or sets of information, we see new possibilities for understanding its effects on the brain/mind.

Music also has a profound impact on emotional problems and learning difficulties, as shown by the work of Dr. Tomatis in France. It is quite interesting how Dr. Tomatis got involved in his work with Sound Therapy. Somewhat early in his studies, he was called to a Benedictine monastery outside of Paris. The monks were depressed and were having trouble eating and sleeping. Dr. Tomatis was asked to find the cause of their ailments.In the course of his explorations, he discovered that the abbey had recently acquired a new abbot. The new father prided himself on being a modern man, and considering the Gregorian chants too medieval, he had ordered the monks to stop chanting.

Without knowing it, the abbot had taken away a primary form of brain stimulation for the monks. When Dr. Tomatis had the abbot reinstate the chanting, the depression lifted, and the monks were fine. This incident led Dr. Tomatis to study the effects of sound on the brain. In the course of his work, he discovered the effects of high frequencies on brain processing, emotional problems and blocks to learning.

At the Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California, noted geneticist Dr. Ohno has ascribed musical notes to each of the 6 amino acids that make up the DNA code. Dr.Ohno has been able to transcribe the “music” made by the DNA helixes in living things. These sound patterns are not random, but actually make melodies. In one of his experiments, he transcribed the melody of a particular type of cancer. The melody had an uncanny similarity to a piece of music written in the 17th century—Chopin’s Funeral March. Had Chopin “intuited” this melody from nature itself?

The importance of sound and music on brain processing is significant to the field of Psychoacoustics. By looking at the changes in brain states and behaviors elicited through sound, language and music, we can more fully understand these phenomena. Psychoacoustics is in its infancy, and we are only now beginning to understand the precision in which sound patterns can affect brain and cellular processes. It is an exciting time, and ABR is committed to the scientific exploration and understanding of Psychoacoustic theory and technology.

LANGUAGE

The use of language in ABR tapes is highly specific and is based upon the work of Milton Erickson, M.D., and the use of Transformational Grammar. Transformational Grammar is concerned with the “transformations” or changes in grammar native speakers of a language make when speaking. Transformations can facilitate altered states of awareness.

By using language within the context of this grammar, we are able to “speak” to the unconscious mind in its own language. This language of the unconscious mind is characterized by its use of metaphors. Metaphors have much deeper and more global associations than cognitive type (normal) sentences. For instance, if someone were to say to you, “I love you,” you would know what was meant. However, if a metaphor was used, the communication would have more depth. For instance, “I love you as a river must love the sea, rushing, pushing ever onward…. I am drawn to you.” This is the essence of poetry, and it is also a means by which we can greatly accelerate change. Fundamental changes in behaviors and attitudes will occur with the use of metaphors. By speaking to the unconscious mind on its own terms, we can increase the depth of mental and emotional processes.

BRAIN PHYSIOLOGY

Acoustic stimulation of the brain is accomplished via the auditory pathways which are routed into the auditory cortex. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is also activated through the spinoreticular fibers located in laminae 5 through 8 of the spinal gray matter. While the RAS is not equipped to deal with specific sensory information, it is well suited for controlling arousal. Any strong stimulation, such as sound, activates the RAS, thereby diffusely activating the entire cerebral cortex, the seat of “higher” thought.

In a study released by Ted Melnechuk, Director of Research Communications at the Institute for the Advancement of Health, there was a direct relationship between music and the opiate-like endorphins released by the brain. Many incidences of highly pleasurable and “healing” experiences have been reported by the users of our recordings. Therefore, it may be inferred, through observation, that many of our tapes increase endorphin levels within the body. Clinical data in support of this hypothesis is not available at this time, though studies are presently underway.

In his book The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, Ernst Rossi, M.D., shows how language can create specific physiological changes within the body. He suggests that there is a structure within the brain which “translates” language into physiological response. This structure, called the hypothalamus, is located in the mid-lower level of the brain. It communicates via nerve fibers with the higher cortex and the various organs and systems of the body. When information enters the hypothalamus from the cortical areas of the brain, the hypothalamus “transduces” the energy of the nerve impulses from the cortex into the “language” of the body. Therefore, the use of language in highly specific ways, as found in some ABR recordings, results in distinct physiological responses.

Another way of viewing the effects of psychoacoustic stimulation on brain physiology is through Pet Scans. In Pet Scans, brain activity is measured by the consumption of glucose (a simple sugar used by the brain for fuel). Through Pet Scans it has been shown that language activates the left hemisphere, while music activates the right. When music and language are combined, both hemispheres are stimulated. One of the principles of ABR technology is that an increase in neurological activity in the brain, increases the opportunity for change to occur.

The Neuromap is a 24 channel Electroencephalogram (EEG) which measures brain wave activity via a microprocessor (see Brain Wave Primer). The 24 channels of information are color coded to give a topographic map of the brain and the various areas of brain wave activity. The particular form of Neuromapping used by ABR was created by Dr. Ed Wilson, M.D., at the Colorado Center for BioBehavioral Health. When the Neuromap was used to study a subject listening to the ABR tape, Wave Form, a radical shift of dominant alpha brain activity indicating a significant altered state of consciousness was observed.

Also noted was a powerful increase in theta activity associated with deep states of relaxation. It should be noted that Wave Form has been used extensively by numerous clinicians for stress and pain management.

TECHNOLOGY

ABR uses a variety of sound and musical patterns depending on the behavioral effects desired. In general, we are looking to create brain wave states in the area of alpha and theta, and sometimes delta. This allows the brain/mind to be more receptive to incoming information which may or may not be expressed in the form of language.

ABR technologies rely on numerous auditory strategies to generate specific brain wave patterning. Threshold Electronic Pulsations (generating specific brain wave patterns by pulsing a given frequency at the desired cycles per second), frequency modulations (in which tones are quickly oscillated between two polarities), musical patterning, tonal architecture and hemispheric spanning (spacing key tones within the stereo field) are just a few of the more frequently used devices. In addition, differential signaling is occasionally used to affect brain entrainment. In differential signaling two different signals are sent to the brain simultaneously. The tones are most often set in a musical ratio, which are often associated with healing abilities.

In addition, we employ frequencies to stimulate the sensory processing centers of the brain during crucial moments of “high learning potential.” Such frequencies may be electronically or naturally generated. In some instances, the brain may be cross-laterally stimulated through the right and left hemispheres to increase cerebral processing, directing sound patterns and frequencies across the corpus collosum. 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). The final effect is a complex web of auditory stimulation which maximizes brain processing and learning.

Research Data Anecdotal

We have received numerous reports from listeners of our recordings that titles such as Wave Form produce relaxed states of awareness. They have reported floating feelings, deep muscular relaxation, the reduction of perceived pain, profound feelings of peace and calmness, and pronounced increases in pleasurable states. These anecdotal reports have been physiologically explained by studies such as the Neuromap-ping described previously.

A number of persons with chronic health problems have reported vast improvements through use of the Psycho-Immunology series. These patients have included persons with cancer, endocrine system imbalances, lupus, stress fatigue syndrome, etc. It would appear that any problem exacerbated by stress would be helped by these recordings. (This refers to the stress patterns revealed by the anecdotal reports and by the premises of Psychoacoustics as they apply to the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems. These are inferences and are not based, at this time, on controlled studies.)

Author Robert Anton Wilson, reported in Magical Blend magazine that he gave Psycho-Immunology to a movie producer under tremendous stress. After a week of listening to the recording, the producer said he “felt like a new man”, and “as if [he] had taken a vacation.” Furthermore, Wilson reported that he found the recording more stimulating and effective than brain machines. This is another effect reported anecdotally from a number of listeners. Psycho-Immunology seems to create all types of transformational experiences. Theoretically this may be explained by the broad range of frequency stimulation as well as by increased bodily awareness. Usage of the recordings seems to increase sensitivity to internal sensations.

Ambient Support was originally designed for use by students and teachers in the classroom, though it is now being used by an increasing number of professionals to increase productivity. Anecdotal reports have been outstanding. Dr. Gwen Moore of the Northside Learning Lab in Atlanta, Georgia, reported that Ambient Support increased ease of learning, reduced stress and increased motivation. In a subjective survey of 42 graduate and undergraduate students, 90% reported reduced anxiety and stress around learning, 87% reported less test anxiety, 85% reported increased motivation and 84% reported improved memory. (Note that this was not a controlled study, and the figures are not significant from a purely scientific standpoint. They merely indicate subjective impressions, and as such, may be highly variable.)

Physiological Studies

Physiological measurements include such things as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, blood chemistry, etc. PET SCANS and EEG’s have already been mentioned earlier. ABR has focused most of its current physiological studies on the results of EEG’s such as Neuromapping and a Computer Data Retrieval System called HAL-4.

BRAIN WAVE PRIMER

The brain emits electrical potentials or patterns throughout its entire structure. These electrical patterns or brain waves have been clinically shown to correlate with various mental and emotional states. The standard means for measuring brain wave activity is with an EEG (see Brain Physiology). There are some disagreements in the field as to where different brain states overlap, but the following schema is generally accepted. There are six different classifications starting with delta, the lowest level, to K-complex, the highest level.

Delta is in the 0.5 – 4.0 HZ range and it is associated with deep sleep with no awareness of the self. However, certain individuals with highly developed nervous systems have reported a deep stillness and a relaxed awareness of the self while in delta. Such persons have usually cultivated their nervous systems through such practices as yoga, meditation, etc.

The next level of brain wave activity is theta, which is in the 4 – 8 HZ range. Theta is associated with deep relaxation and profound imaging experiences such as dreams, visions, etc. Furthermore, theta is often linked with the phenomena of self-healing.

From theta we move up into alpha which is associated with mild relaxation. Alpha is in the 8 -14 HZ range, and is often used in such accelerated learning methods as Superlearning. In addition, alpha is utilized in certain types of self-help methods such as cybernetics.

Beta is what we normally think of as waking state, and is in the 14 – 23 HZ range. High beta is in the 23 – 33 HZ range and is associated with heightened states of mental activity. K Complex is in the 33 HZ range, usually occurs in short bursts, and is associated with “aha” experiences when there is sudden insight. Recent research indicates that the brain may generate activity in the neocortex as high as 150 HZ. These brain states are grouped together as high and super high beta.

By targeting certain brain states, it is possible to greatly assist internal activities such as learning, self-healing, the exploration of altered states, etc. While the measurement of brain activity is of paramount importance in our grasp of neurophysiology, the actual mental/emotional and spiritual experiences of the individual are also crucial to our understanding of the brain/mind interface.

BASIC ACOUSTICS

The following information is a very basic overview of frequencies as the term is used in Psychoacoustics. All sound vibration is comprised of wave patterns. The diagram below shows a typical sine wave (which is the most common wave form used in Psychoacoustics).

A cycle is the distance between peaks. Frequencies are usually read in cycles per second or HZ (Hertz). The higher the frequency the higher the pitch. The normal range of hearing for most people is in the 20 – 20,000 HZ range. A few people hear tones above 20,000 HZ, though it is very rare for someone to hear frequencies below 20HZ.

When frequencies are used to “entrain” the brain into an altered state there are numerous possible strategies. An important thing to remember is that most people cannot hear the lower frequencies that are typical of brain wave patterning. For instance, low alpha (with its attendant relaxation) is in the 8 – 9 HZ range, far below the 20HZ threshold of hearing.

One way to get around this is through Differential Signaling. In Differential Signaling two different tones are sent to the brain. For example let us say we send 200 HZ to the left ear and 208 HZ to the right. The difference between the signals is 8HZ which is what the brain will “entrain” to. We also use musical ratios which have been found to be quite effective at altering awareness.

Another strategy, more commonly used on ABR recordings8, is to pulse low tones at specific rhythmic pulsations to “entrain” the brain into the desired state. Thus we may pulse any given frequency or tone at 10 cycles per second to achieve an increase in alpha activity. An advantage to this form of entrain-ment is that a person with ear deafness in one ear can still get the “entrainment”, whereas in Differential Signaling they would not.

In terms of brain processing and body image, there is one aspect to frequencies of vital interest in Psychoacoustics. By using different frequencies, it is possible to resonate different areas of the body, thereby activating or triggering emotional/mental activity associated with those areas. The applications to psychotherapy and disciplines involving the body/mind interface are very exciting.