Beats that can alter your brain? - KPTV - FOX 12

Can 'binaural beats' alter your brain?

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

From promises of euphoria to infinite bliss to powerful meditation, you may not have heard of "binaural beats," but look online and you can find a virtual menu for any mood.

Dr. Helane Wahbeh, a naturopathic physician and researcher at Oregon Health and Science University, first studied the beats a few years ago. She describes binaural beats as a unique sound phenomenon when two different frequencies are played in your opposite ears, meaning what you hear out of one headphone is slightly different than the other.

Companies who distribute the beats claim they can actually alter your brainwaves, and different sounds promise different effects to help with everything from calming to concentration.

"I can actually feel myself starting to focus when I hear it," said Kathryn Martini, a full-time student, freelance writer and mother of three, who's faced with constant distractions and deadlines.

She downloaded the beats to help her study and she said, so far, they've made a dramatic difference.

"I get very sucked into what I'm doing," said Martini. "I get so engrossed in what I'm doing I won't even realize how much time has passed."

However, when Wahbeh studied the beats in a small pilot study, she said she found no physical proof they actually altered the brain.

"We did not see any change in their EEG at all," said Wahbeh.

But, in another study, Wahbeh said people listening to the beats reported less anxiety and stress.

"There are some people who feel like this has really saved their lives in some way, and I don't discount that," said Wahbeh.

Binaural beats, though, aren't without some controversy. A few years ago, FOX 12 first reported on some of the sounds that were supposed to simulate illegal drugs from marijuana to heroin.

Teens even posted videos on YouTube showing what they called "I-dosing."

"The placebo effect is incredibly powerful and children's minds are incredibly powerful and versatile. And so who's to say what's going on there," said Wahbeh.

While researchers said it may be more psychological than scientific, those using binaural beats for a positive boost said they will keep listening.

"I think that's entirely possible, but I also think that's very powerful all in itself," said Martini. "If it works, that's OK!"

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