Binaural beat technology in humans: A pilot study to assess neuropsychologic, physiologic, and electroencephalographic effects

Helané Wahbeh, Carlo Calabrese, Heather Zwickey, Dan Zajdel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Objectives: When two auditory stimuli of different frequency are presented to each ear, binaural beats are perceived by the listener. The binaural beat frequency is equal to the difference between the frequencies applied to each ear. Our primary objective was to assess whether steady-state entrainment of electroencephalographic activity to the binaural beat occurs when exposed to a specific binaural beat frequency as has been hypothesized. Our secondary objective was to gather preliminary data on neuropsychologic and physiologic effects of binaural beat technology. Design: A randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled crossover experiment in 4 healthy adult subjects. Intervention: Subjects were randomized to experimental auditory stimulus of 30 minutes of binaural beat at 7 Hz (carrier frequencies: 133 Hz L; 140Hz R) with an overlay of pink noise resembling the sound of rain on one session and control stimuli of the same overlay without the binaural beat carrier frequencies on the other session. Outcome measures: Data were collected during two separate sessions 1 week apart. Neuropsychologic and blood pressure data were collected before and after the intervention; electroencephalographic data were collected before, during, and after listening to either binaural beats or control. Neuropsychologic measures included State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Profile of Mood States, Rey Auditory Verbal List Test, Stroop Test, and Controlled Oral Word Association Test. Spectral and coherence analysis was performed on the electroencephalogram (EEG), and all measures were analyzed for changes between sessions with and without binaural beat stimuli. Results: There were no significant differences between the experimental and control conditions in any of the EEG measures. There was an increase of the Profile of Mood States depression subscale in the experimental condition relative to the control condition (p = 0.02). There was also a significant decrease in immediate verbal memory recall (p = 0.03) in the experimental condition compared to control condition. Conclusions: We did not find support for steady-state entrainment of the scalp-recorded EEG while listening to 7-Hz binaural beats. Although our data indicated increased depression and poorer immediate recall after listening to binaural beats, larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-206
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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