“Just minutes after I remove my boots inside the entrance of the Globe Institute of Sound and Consciousness in San Francisco, founder David Gibson asks whether I’d like to experience the sound table.
Neuroscientists understand the binaural beat phenomenon, says Theodore Zanto of UC San Francisco, who studies how our perception of rhythm relates to memory and attention. Devices that monitor brain waves detect binaural beats entrained in the neurons of the brain stem.
Sound healers take it a step further to link the frequency of the binaural beat to mood or cognition. But that leap lacks convincing research to back it up, says Zanto. He could find no studies linking binaural beats to healing that adequately controlled for other factors that might explain the benefits to patients, such as the soothing music itself or a placebo effect.
Gibson says his clients have had amazing results from the institute’s sound healing sessions. “I mean, I’ve had people be in tears,” he says, leaning over his desk to describe success stories from his customers.
I can’t deny that sound healing sessions make me feel something. At the institute, I lie on the floor with my eyes closed when someone strikes a Tibetan bowl with a hard gong. A deep wah-wah-wah wafts through the room. When the last note fades I hold onto the silence with intense focus. I feel buzzed—almost high. This is the closest I’ve come to meditating, a practice that neuroscience research has shown to improve mood and cognitive function.
Gibson also has worked with a dozen patients with Parkinson’s disease. A combination of techniques tamps down their tremors, he states. The patients sit on a vibrating sound chair, which rotates to activate responses in the heart rate while playing music embedded with binaural beats. Gibson designs the music with several tailored features, including specific frequencies, types of sounds and harmonic intervals. Gibson saw his clients’ symptoms improve, he says. He also points to NIH-funded research that examined vibroacoustic music as a way to alleviate certain symptoms. ”
My experiences at the Globe Institute led me to dwell upon our history with sound. From the drumming of our African ancestors to the chanting of Tibetan monks to the latest breakup song by Taylor Swift, our species has sought to self-medicate with vibrations for millennia. Those who seek out sound healers feel better after their sessions, even if healers go far beyond what neuroscientists would ever say about the effects on brainwaves. And the sound therapists, in turn, feel good that so many customers are seeking them out.
Continue reading at: Science Notes 2015: Cerebral Vibrations
Potter, Lisa Marie. “” Science Notes 2015:Cerebral Vibrations. Accessed July 21, 2016.http://sciencenotes.ucsc.edu/2015/pages/sound/sound.html.