Bilateral and Binaural Brain Stimulation in Trauma Recovery
by Elizabeth Boisson
Bilateral and Binaural Brain Stimulation in Trauma Recovery What is it? Why does it work? When can I use it? JUDITH A HANCOX, MSW, LCSW, BCETS
Bilateral brain stimulation is used by Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapists to “tap” both sides of the brain alternately using the same rhythmic pattern to desensitize traumatic memories and help reprocess disturbances to peaceful resolutions. It can be accomplished with eye movements, tactile tapping or sound stimulation.
Bilateral sound stimulation (and binaural sounds) must be used with a headset to have the desired effect. We naturally use bilateral brain stimulation when we go for a walk or a run, or tap or drum on our body alternately left and right. It doesn’t let us think too much (left brain activity) or feel too much (right brain activity). It helps us access our center brain, our pineal gland, our “third eye” – the doorway to our intuition.
Slowing down our left/right brain activity in this way can be a bridge to a world of peace that is beyond human comprehension. Our left hemisphere is the part of our brain dominated by language and logic. It is needed to process emotions. Our right hemisphere is the part of the brain dominated by emotions and feelings. It is needed for survival. Think of infants who are not mature enough to speak. They need to express their emotional and physical needs through cries for help (right hemisphere). As soon as babies can put words to what they want (left hemisphere), caregivers will know how to respond, and life can be more peaceful. There are no words associated with this right-brain activity, and no feelings involved in this left-brain activity. Both parts have pictures or images associated with the feelings and words.
Our amygdala is the part of our brain that receives and releases emotions. When we get stuck in overwhelming emotions, when we are “looping” or repeating the same thoughts and feelings over and over, our amygdala is not releasing the emotion(s) and we are most likely in a traumatic situation or suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). My definition of trauma is a “shock and lock” phenomenon. Traumatic shock and PTSD do not heal in time like life’s “normal” disturbances. Wounds are programmed to heal, but not when they are infected. Trauma is like an infected wound. Without some intervention or treatment, this wound could perseverate and cause complications.
Decades of research in EMDR has proven its effectiveness in healing trauma. Bilateral brain stimulation assists the process of bringing emotions from the right to the left hemisphere, helping to “digest,” integrate and process traumatic information with a trained, experienced EMDRIA-certified therapist. (emdria.org) Bilateral brain stimulation does not take the place of an EMDR therapist for trauma recovery, but it can help us relax, concentrate, meditate, focus, and sometimes fall asleep when we are in an emotional state of mind. There are several methods of accessing and releasing traumatic memory through music, art, dance, yoga and other creative ways & means that all involve right brain activity.
Bilateral or Binaural Beats? Binaural beats or “Hemi Sync” (a tradename) is different from bilateral stimulation. A binaural beat is said to be an illusion. It is created by the brain by listening to two tones at the same time with slightly different frequencies and interpreting the two tones as one beat. It is said that when our ear hears a slightly different frequency at the same time it compensates by creating the “perception” of a third sound that can synchronize brain waves to associate with brain wave activity – so we can tap into different states of awareness.
Web MD explains: “The two tones align with your brain waves to produce a beat with a different frequency. This frequency is the difference in hertz (Hz-cycles per second) between the frequencies of the two tones. For example, if you are listening to a 440 Hz tone with your left ear and a 444 Hz tone with your right ear, you would be hearing a 4 Hz tone. This means you can use binaural beats to entrain your mind to reach a certain mental state. When you listen to binaural beats, your brain activity matches the frequency set by the frequency of the beat. This is called the frequency following effect.” Please learn more by clicking here.
The different mental states of mind or brain activity that one wishes to induce, depending on the need, can be accessed with binaural beats: Beta (13 Hz to approximately 30 Hz) – The active, thinking, waking alert state of awareness. Alpha (8 Hz to 12 Hz) – Calm, neutral and similar to a relay station that receives external and internal stimuli and passes it to other parts of the brain for processing, it’s like the transmission of a car in neutral – making transition to drive or to reverse, from neutral to action (beta) or neutral to deeper relaxation (delta or theta). Theta (4 Hz to 7 Hz) – Generated in the lymbic system which is key to emotions and memory. Theta is subconscious for most people in overriding our thinking brain. It’s accessed in sleep, but tapped into in creative and highly functioning cognitive states called alert Theta. Delta (.5 Hz to 3 Hz) – The brainstem generates Delta in deep levels of sleep; this deep sleep state is always beneficial to the body/mind. Please click here to learn more.
All relaxed states of mind – alpha, theta, delta, have shown to be beneficial for the immune system. I would advise binaural beats to be addressed with a professional or with medical assistance to induce different states of mind because studies have shown there can be a decrease as well as an increase in anxiety and depression with binaural, depending on one’s individual physiology and situation. The length of time using both of these methods depends on the individual – 30 minutes or less is more common and more than 30 minutes may cause one to be tired or exhausted - as in the case of a 90-minute EMDR session – which involves as much processing as bilateral tapping.
Applying bilateral stimulation or binaural beats to assist relaxation, concentration, meditation and sleep enhancement usually has no negative side effects, however, if it feels annoying, please take the headset off at any point and rest! Just like going for a long walk can cause physical exhaustion, the same applies to taking one’s brain for a walk! My two musical tracks with bilateral sound stimulation, Bilateral Bliss and Angelic Sea may be obtained at Shiome.com. Angelic Sea is a gift from the angels, and I give it freely to all who request it. Bilateral Bliss, 6th track on Energy Correcting Meditation CD, with accompanying book and illustrations, is available at Shiome.com.
Please email me at Judith.email@example.com for assistance or for more information
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