A Brain.fm report from your guinea pig

A report from the Creative + Mindful guinea pigHello, from the lazy spin of my exercise wheel! (do guinea pigs use wheels? Or are those just for hamsters?) As promised, I’m here to give you an updated on my experiments with Brain.fm. If you read my original post, you’re aware that I signed up for an annual membership to the site to experiment with their brainwave entrainment (BWE) algorithms.

What is Brain.fm?

The gist of it is you feed some basic info about yourself into the app and then you tell it what you want to do (relax/meditate, focus or sleep). The app puts together an audio track for you that is created to best support the task you specified. You can also pick from a list of tracks and, either way, you can choose how long you want to listen. The BWE contained in the track nudges your brainwaves into a pattern that helps you do whatever it is you are doing.

Brain.fm screenshot

My experience

The Focus tracks

Off the bat, I’ll say I’ve had really great experience with the Focus tracks. When I’ve had contract work to slog through, I’ve been able to keep myself nearly 100% focused on the work for 30 min – 2 hour stretches. Without the audio, I tend to get distracted and end up procrastinating on social media or Googling random stuff for my own entertainment.

It may be wishful thinking, but I also feel like I’ve been able to arrive at better and more creative solutions to my work and writing quandries when I’ve been listening to Focus tracks on Brain.fm. I assume it’s a side effect of not being distracted. Reaching a “creative flow state” supposedly requires longer periods of focus.

Each session of work with a Brain.fm Focus track has left me feeling calm and alert and – most importantly – like I accomplished something.

The Meditation tracks

I didn’t have the greatest experience right away with Brain.fm’s Meditation tracks. I’m used to 30 minute silent meditations on my own with little more than ambient household noise. The track that was first chosen for me – an electronic music kind of thing – made me feel a little anxious. Kind of like a jangly nerves feeling.

I ended up moving over to the Explore section of the app and chose my own track – something beachy. That was much better and, although it still felt a little alien as part of my meditation, I have to admit it worked.

I easily slipped into a sort of trance-like state and I walked away from the meditation feeling calm and refreshed. I do have to emphasize that it was a trance-like state, which is not the same as mindfulness meditation. It was a deep inward focus, not the all-inclusive alertness that I work at with my regular mindfulness practice. Not good or bad – just an observation that it was different.

A note on side effects…

I hesitate to call it a “side effect” but I do have to mention that audio BWE can bring on a weird feeling, depending on what kind of frequencies you are listening to. In my case, it was sort of like a spacey, detached feeling – although I was calm and alert at all times.

I wouldn’t call it worrisome. Especially since I sometimes feel that way without any external provocation. I don’t even really know how to describe it since it doesn’t seem to have any ill effects other than the feeling – it’s not like being drunk or sleepy or hungover or anything like that.

I guess it’s just worth mentioning since that spacey feeling can be kind of disconcerting if you’ve never experienced it before.

The Sleep tracks

Thanks to seasonal allergies and my current ration of drowsiness-inducing antihistamines, I have had no trouble sleeping lately. In fact, if there was something that could bring on the beta brainwaves following afternoon errands in a warm car, I’d be all for it.

Long story, short, I haven’t tried the Sleep tracks yet. But Spring is an odd time for me. Allergy drowsiness is often followed by cycles of insomnia. I’m not sure if it has something to do with the build-up of OTC pharmaceuticals or a change in the weather. Regardless, I’m certain I’ll be testing the Sleep tracks very soon.

The Verdict

I think Brain.fm was a good investment. If nothing else, the Focus tracks are a godsend on days when I have a rapidly approaching client deadline, but the weather is nice or there is something exciting going on in the news.

I’ve read that BWE doesn’t work for some people. I can’t really comment on that since it does seem to work for me. Of course, I’ve also read some (possibly questionable) warnings about the “dangers” of BWE. Entrainment is not recommended for people with a history of seizures, pregnant women or children. I’m no doctor, but I think that recommendation is pretty sound. Otherwise, I see no reason why healthy adults shouldn’t give it a spin.

Want to know more? Keep reading for additional musings.

What’s the science behind this?

Brain.fm employs a bunch of smarty-pants developers, audio engineers and PhD people who work in neuroscience and BWE has been studied in major research settings so it’s legit stuff. Their parent company – Transparent Corporation defines BWE like this: “the brain’s electrical response to rhythmic sensory stimulation, such as pulses of sound or light.”

It’s generally a safe technology, although people who have seizure disorders – such as epilepsy – should avoid BWE, especially in cases where light pulses are used. Brain.fm is all auditory.

The science-y part of BWE is that certain brainwave states are best for certain activities. Beta waves are found in your default waking state; Alpha is your alert and relaxed state; Theta is found in meditation and light sleep; Delta is deep sleep; and Gamma is still sort of a mystery brainwave but it is believed to come into play when you are doing cognitive/memory/info processing kind of stuff.

Practices such as biofeedback, meditation, ritual dancing/chanting/etc. can teach people to induce certain brainwave states on their own. But BWE audio is sort of like a shortcut.

So, what’s the frequency, Kenneth?

Chances are, you’ve already experienced BWE at some point in your life. Have you ever been sitting somewhere, really bored with nothing to keep you stimulated or engaged – like a college lecture or study hall in high school? And there was a hum coming from the fluorescent lights, with perhaps a little rhythmic flicker? And you started to feel sleepy or trance-y?

That was brainwave entrainment. Maybe not intentional. But the steady rhythm of the sound and light, along with a lack of anything to disrupt your attention, synced your brainwaves up with a frequency in the sleepy range.

Our brains are truly mysterious, aren’t they? Stay tuned for more reports as I keep at it.

Ciao for now, bellas!

Opt In Image
Have you joined my Friends List?
... membership has its privileges!

Receive my jam-packed organization guide, Kick Disorganization in the Pants, along with other (free!) goodies, when you join my Friends List. Enter your name & email address and click "Get the Goodies!" for instant access. I can't wait to hear from you!

p.s. My Friends List is 100% spam-free! Scout's honor to keep your info private. I send occasional updates and messages but you may opt-out at any time.