Meeting Bob Monroe
In the spring of 1977, I was just getting started in the U.S. Army’s secret counterintelligence remote-viewing operations at Fort Meade, Maryland. Seeking information on organizations and techniques that could benefit our military goals, I got in touch with The Monroe Institute. Because of the secrecy surrounding my military mission, I could not reveal the true nature of my inquiry at the Institute. I didn’t conceal the fact that I was a military intelligence officer but stated simply that I had read Bob Monroe’s book, Journeys Out of the Body, and was curious about his research and facilities and whether others could be taught his techniques. When I called, I asked to meet and talk with Bob Monroe. I was asked to leave a phone number and in a day or two, much to my surprise, Mr. Monroe himself called back and provided me with directions from my base of operations in the Washington, D.C., area (Fort Meade) to Whistlefield Farm, his Virginia home a 432-acre estate.
As I drove around the Washington, D.C. Capital Beltway, west on Interstate 66, and south on U.S. 29, I somehow knew I was headed for another of life's grand adventures. As I drove deeper into the rural Virginia countryside, my thoughts drifted between expectations and daydreams. Others had written of their so-called out-of-body experiences, but Monroe's work was somehow different. Monroe went beyond reporting the trivialities of extra-corporeal visits to friends, neighbors, and distant places in the world. He wrote of visiting other dimensions or, as he put it, other locales or realms beyond the physical world reminiscent of my childhood understanding of a spiritual domain representative of our true nature. Of course, such thoughts extended beyond my official interest in Monroe and the possible application of his techniques for military remote viewing.
At Mr. Monroe's home he met with me inside a screened-in patio area which was part of the house and perhaps a step or two below the main floor level. Mr. Monroe, sitting on a divan in the patio, wore sweatpants, suspenders, slippers, and a partially unbuttoned, coffee-stained shirt. As he brushed cigarette ashes off his shirt, he looked up and calmly said,
Well, hello. No southern accent here. No pretentious social niceties either. I thought—as a first impression—that perhaps he was more interested in who he was out-of-body
rather than what I might think of him or how I might perceive him in the physical. I introduced myself, telling him that I had read his book and was fascinated with his work.
Bob spoke freely and openly about his book and his personal experiences. At times, an occasional glance from his penetrating blue eyes seemed as though he was seeing beyond my overt military persona and speaking directly to my soul. I felt uneasy about this, somewhat vulnerable, as the official purpose of my visit was considered classified.
Bob invited me to walk around outside with him in the sun-warmed spring air so that we might enjoy the picturesque and fragrant spring blossoms. He showed me the greenhouse and the gardens, and we eventually settled down to continue our talk on a grassy slope near his laboratory and offices. Sitting there at the base of a flowering fruit tree, I found myself thinking about my own out-of-body experiences that I remembered from childhood. Bob encouraged me to share my thoughts with him.
I started by telling Bob about my earliest remembered out-of-body event, which was a story about me being a bed-wetter until I was about ten years old. Bob smiled and asked if this was the only time that I remembered being out of my body.
No, I said, and went on to tell him some other childhood experiences. As I continued to talk though, in my mind I was thinking that I had said enough and wanted to get on to the purpose for my visit, which, because of military secrecy, I could not fully disclose. I started thinking about how I could turn the conversation.
We sat in silence, which felt awkward to me, for a minute or two. Then Bob began to explain that he had developed a sound technology, a stimulus that allowed people to have experiences under laboratory conditions—experiences that were similar to what he had written about in his book and to those I had been talking about myself. He said that many of these people could talk about or report their experiences while they were happening. I couldn’t imagine how this could be done, given the memory of my own childhood out-of-body experiences. I asked how it was possible, and Bob replied,
Well, kid, I guess we'll just have to show you.
And with that, Bob invited me into his laboratory and offices. We had not yet visited this building, and I had been wondering why he had not taken me there during our walk around the property. As we worked our way up the slope toward the building, I thought,
Maybe he's going to show me an out-of-body experiment in progress. There must be an ongoing experiment in the lab and he's going to let me observe. I would soon find out he had something different in mind.
The YouTube video below is a dramatic presentation of the information in the following paragraphs.
As we entered the building, I said a polite hello to the receptionist and followed Bob down a hall, passing a room with a lot of recording equipment, switching panels, and audio-mixing boards. We turned into a small room with a bed. Bob told me to lie down in the bed and he would play some sounds for me. I was startled by his suggestion and looked quickly around the room. It was a plain, very plain, room without windows or any regular furniture. The bed did not stick out into the room but was seemingly built into the wall. It was recessed back into the wall surface so that it did not take up any floor space in the rather small room. I moved toward the bed and asked hesitantly,
Do you want me to lie here? He told me to lie down and put on the stereo headphones that were on the pillow.
As I complied, I asked what kinds of sounds I would be hearing. He said that he would first play some music for me so that I would be comfortable. As I reclined with the headphones on, I noticed something hanging down in front of my face. I asked what this was. He told me not to worry about it, that it was a microphone so that he would be able to hear me in the other room—meaning, I guessed, the room with all the equipment we had passed going down the hallway. He asked me if I was comfortable, then turned out the lights in the room and closed the door.
Within a minute or so, I heard music through the headphones. This wasn’t music that I had heard before and I thought it rather strange. (I learned later that the music was from a composer named Tomida, who became well known for his baroque, new-age music.) I relaxed a bit, and after a while the music faded into the sound of waves crashing on the beach. Bob, speaking through my headphones, said,
This is the sound of surf. It represents the natural power of sound and is a symbol here at the Institute. I liked the surf sound. It reminded me of the beach and of happy times in California, where I grew up. I imagined the waves crashing up on the sand and receding back into the sea, and I thought I could even hear the popping hiss of
bubbles in the beach sand when the water receded.
The sound of the crashing waves faded, leaving a warm hiss reminiscent of the gentle whoosh of bubbly foam as it soaks into the beach sand. I waited, thinking there might be another wave, and began to experience an unusual auditory sensation, a slow, rhythmic pulse. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. It seemed to be in the background, behind or underneath the warm, hissing noise. At one point, I was sure that the pulsing was actually coming from inside my own head. But I quickly forgot about the sound and my thoughts began to drift—until I noticed that the bed seemed to be moving up toward the ceiling. The sensation of movement was unmistakable, but I couldn’t hear the mechanism working to raise the bed. This was really interesting!
I assumed that Mr. Monroe had control of the bed from the room with all the equipment. I thought the mechanism must be like the hydraulic lift that mechanics use on cars when they do an oil change. But I still couldn’t hear an air compressor or any other mechanical noise. I wondered how such a device could have been installed at a private residence and thought maybe someday I could have such a device in my garage. As these random thoughts dissipated, I discovered that I was traveling. My kinesthetic sense of motion (like the feeling you get when flying in an airplane) was accompanied by a strange visual perception. I seemed to be moving through a white tube or tunnel, its walls lined with crystalline forms. My impression was that I must have been flying down the middle of a Flavor Straw. I was going quite fast. In Star Trek terms, I would estimate my speed at about warp seven.
I remembered Flavor Straws from when I was a kid. They were straws with flavored sugar crystals inside. When you drank through them they sweetened and flavored the milk or water in your glass. I would sometimes peek through the straw tube and see the crystals on the walls of the straw.
Bob’s voice came to me over the earphones.
I seem to be going somewhere.
Where are you going?
I don’t know.
By this time, I had forgotten all about the room and the strange bed. My journey through this passageway continued for what seemed to be a long while. Eventually, I sensed that I was coming to the end of the Flavor Straw and I arched my back, following the upswing curve of the tube. Above me, I could see a vast, open, white area. Just as I began to exit the tube, my perspective switched, and suddenly I was standing in the boundless white space watching myself emerge from the end of this Flavor Straw. At almost the same moment, a knowingness, a revelation, filled my mind. I had come all this way, only to discover that I was already here.
Realizing this, I must have exclaimed,
Oh! or something similar, because Bob immediately spoke to me through my headphones, asking,
What happened? His voice startled me. I had forgotten all about him. For a moment, I thought he must be in this white space with me somewhere. I regained my composure and answered by saying,
I’ll have to tell you later.
I explored this white space for some time, but still today, so many years later, I do not consciously remember much of what I found there. I am sure it was meaningful in some way, but I cannot recall the particulars. Bob startled me again. He said that it was time to get some lunch and that we should finish up.
The very concept of lunch seemed strange to me in the vast white space. But then he changed the sound patterns, and I became aware of being back in the room in the building in the Virginia countryside. I felt myself, or perhaps the bed, being lowered back down. Again, the sense of motion was obvious, but it was very gentle, and I couldn’t perceive any mechanical noise or vibration. I wondered how a hydraulic lift could be so smooth.
The lights came on in the room and I felt disoriented. For a moment, I couldn’t quite figure out where I was. Then Bob came into the room and started urging me to get up and move out into the sunshine. I sat up, turned, swung my legs over the edge of the bed, and rested my feet on the floor. I bent over and raised the blanket that was draped over the edge of the bed and looked under the bed. There was no lift mechanism, just a floor. The bed frame was actually rather crudely built out of two-by-four framing lumber and a sheet of plywood.
Seeing me bent over, Bob asked if I had dropped my wallet or watch on the floor. I looked up at him and told him that I hadn’t. Again, he urged me to stand and walk outside. As we went down the hall toward the exit, he kept asking me what I wanted to eat for lunch. At the time, his voice seemed loud and somewhat annoying. I told him that it didn’t matter to me. Secretly, in my mind I was thinking that if I could get a six-pack of whatever had just happened to me, I would take that for lunch.
We ate at a restaurant a few miles from Whistlefield on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bob explained that I had experienced a sound technology he had developed and patented. He called this technology Hemi-Sync because, as he explained it, he thought the two halves of the brain worked together, or in synchrony, to enable the auditory beating or pulsing I had experienced. He said that many people had been able to experience a wide range of expanded states of consciousness with this technology. When I told him about the sensation of rising up to the ceiling, he smiled and assured me that the bed did not move.
Recognizing only then what had really happened to me, I asked if everybody had out-of-body experiences with this Hemi-Sync sound. He said that not everybody remembers or reports such
experiences and that the Hemi-Sync sounds only encourage what he called a
mind awake—body asleep state, not necessarily an out-of-body experience. He said that the experiences people have in this state depended on their intent and motivation and can be limited by
their fears and belief systems.
At the time, I didn’t understand all he was saying and I wondered why I had floated out-of-body so easily. I asked Bob if the Hemi-Sync sounds he had used with me in the laboratory were special in any way. He said that the sounds weren't special and that he suspected that I would be able to get out-of-body rather easily based on what I had told him about my childhood experiences. He went on,
From what you told me, you must have been in contact with or guided by something greater than your physical body for some time now. Surely, you have a sense of self that is greater than your physical body? Children intuitively know this until such awareness is subdued by social conditioning. Apparently this knowing, this awareness, of a greater self was not discouraged during your upbringing.
I understood what Bob was talking about. We all grow up thinking, believing, and knowing that in whatever the circumstance we find ourselves, it’s normal. Poor folks don’t think of themselves as poor. They see themselves as normal. Children in horribly dysfunctional families establish a comfort zone of normality in such relationships and strive to recreate similar family units for themselves in adulthood. Until some authority from outside tells us there is something wrong, or different, or strange about our family or us, we grow up under the illusion that we are normal.
Monroe World—The New Land of Hemi-Sync
In 1986, a couple of years before I retired from the army, I began building a house near Nellysford, Virginia, very close to The Monroe Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by Bob Monroe. In the intervening years since we first met in 1977, Bob had been softly suggesting that I could join the staff of the Institute. He never made a direct offer but rather hinted that there might be a position available if I was so disposed. This open door, coupled with my own internal Guidance, led me in the direction of The Monroe Institute as army retirement neared.
Retiring from the army and moving to Virginia without a specific job offer might seem like a risky thing to do. But I had grown to trust Guidance as expressed through gentle feelings and a sense of divine-right-action. It was not as though I heard a booming voice say,
Retire from the army, move to Virginia, and get a job at The Monroe Institute. I just knew in my heart it was the right thing to do.
An understanding of the technology time window is important here. In the mid- to late-eighties, desktop office computers began to change the workplace forever. Personal ownership of a computer, a concept shared by only the most forward-looking entrepreneurs, became possible. I took to this new computer era with great enthusiasm. I bought a home computer and learned how to operate a variety of systems and to write my own applications programs. My electronics training from earlier years in the army helped too. Guidance obviously had more on my agenda at the time than clandestine technical surveillance devices.
This new age of technology made widespread application of computerized electroencephalography, popularly referred to as brain mapping, a reality. I found a fledgling company in Colorado called Lexicor Medical Technology that had developed a 24-channel, computerized EEG recording and analysis instrument. This remarkable-for-its-time system worked in conjunction with the latest in desktop computers an IBM-compatible 286 with a twenty-megabyte hard drive and eight megabytes of RAM. I realize that such figures sound ridiculous by today's standards, but back then it was state-of-the-art.
Bob Monroe and I discussed the possibility of getting such a device for the Institute and using it to measure brainwave changes in people listening to Hemi-Sync. Ever since my experience through the flavor straw back in 1977, I had been curious. What was it about Hemi-Sync that made this journey possible, and how was it that Bob ever came up with this sound technology? Bob had told me at the time that my specific experience was the result of my metaphysical upbringing and my intent. But my curiosity went further. Do the Hemi-Sync sounds alter brain activity and consciousness?
Bob assured me that this was probably true but there was no objective evidence to demonstrate such changes. But now, with the advent of desktop computers, such measurements would be possible outside a multimillion-dollar medical diagnostic facility. Bob sent me to Colorado to check out the Lexicor device. During this same period of time (I still did not have a new job after my army retirement), I programmed my home computer, which was equipped with a stereo sound card, to produce complex binaural beats—the stuff of Hemi-Sync. I packed up my computer and took it to Bob to show him how computers could be used to produce his Hemi-Sync sounds. He was skeptical at first; then he asked me to
dial in a few different binaural-beat patterns. The short version of the—rest—of—the—story is that I did not leave Bob's place with my computer. Bob was truly amazed. For years, he had been mixing together many layers of sounds from analog tape through a multi-channel audio mixing board. This method took hours and hours of work. With a computer, such mixing became obsolete as such combinations could simply be programmed into the sound card.
When I came back from Colorado and explained to Bob how the Lexicor device worked and what it would reveal, I recommended that he get one for the Institute. He asked me if I could operate it and the computer we would need to buy. I assured him that I could. It was only then, in June of 1988, that Bob actually offered me a job at the Institute. After a provisional ninety-day hire, during which I set up and began to use the Lexicor, Bob offered me the position of research director at the Institute in September 1988. He was in fact inviting me to join him in a scientific journey on a course charted to discover the why and how of Hemi-Sync.
Early Hemi-Sync Development
Originally, Bob was interested in sleep-learning and wanted to develop a way to prolong those lighter stages of sleep wherein most sleep-learning seemed to occur. He experienced his first conscious out-of-body escapade only after many Hemi-Sync sleep-learning experiments. Ever since the late 1950s, first Bob Monroe and then the Institute have been identifying propitious states of consciousness and developing various Hemi-Sync signals to induce them. The process of developing effective Hemi-Sync binaural beats has been as complex as the functions of the brain itself.
Under laboratory conditions, Bob Monroe originally tested many subjects for their subjective and objective responses to binaural beats, and recorded the effect on them of each binaural beat frequency. Then binaural beats were mixed and subjects' responses were again recorded. After many months—years in some cases—test results began to show population-wide singular responses to specific mixes of binaural beats, which laid the foundation for what are now called Hemi-Sync focus levels. The Hemi-Sync technology was eventually patented.
Bob tried to describe Hemi-Sync as an auditory-guidance system that uses sound pulses to somehow entrain beneficial brainwave states. He said that Hemi-Sync seemed to be able to heighten selected awareness and performance levels while creating a relaxed state. But could this be true? And if it was, how did all this work? Could sound pulses somehow entrain the electrical activity of the brain? Resonant entrainment of oscillating systems is a well understood principle in the physical sciences—but was it the mechanism behind Hemi-Sync?
Although Bob found that Hemi-Sync, actually the well recognized phenomena of binaural beating, enables focused states of consciousness and, for some, provokes the realization that they are more than their physical bodies, little was known about the mechanism—the so-called neural underpinnings of the process.
In the early years, it was assumed that the mechanism behind the consciousness-altering effects of binaural beats was somehow related to the frequency-following response. It was postulated that prolonged exposure to binaural-beat stimuli influenced brainwaves to the point of altering ongoing EEG through entrainment of the perceived rhythmic pulsing. Since an auditory, frequency-following response could be measured at the brain’s cortex, it was theorized that such entrainment imposed some sort of pattern on the nonlinear, stochastic
resonance of brainwaves by means of the frequency beating of the auditory stimulus. Some erroneously called this
entrainment of the frequency-following response. This of course makes little sense, because a response is, by definition, a reaction to something
and not in itself causative.
The Bob Monroe Research Lab
Even before I became the research director, I was fascinated with the concept that Hemi-Sync altered consciousness. I assumed this meant that the sound patterns somehow changed brainwaves. At first, I thought that Bob must have based the Hemi-Sync frequencies on his own brainwave states. So I began searching for some documentation of Bob’s brainwave state during his out-of-body adventures and I found it. Six Studies of Out-of-the-Body Experiences by Charles T. Tart who reviews Bob's OBE EEG research and provides further comment. Read this paper many times. Then go back and read the section near the bottom called Simulation of Reality: many, many more times. The picture on the left is Charlie Tart. Here is a great interview with Charlie Tart e-visiting The Monroe Institute.
The studies of Bob’s out-of-body experiences showed that his escapades seemed to occur in conjunction with a prolonged and deliberately produced hypnagogic state (Stage One sleep). Such sustained states are not normally seen in the laboratory. Additionally, the preponderance of theta rhythms and the occasional, slowed alpha showed an intriguing parallel with brainwave states reported for advanced Zen masters during meditation. (The major achievement of these studies was to demonstrate that the out-of-body experience can occur in a laboratory setting and is thus amenable to scientific investigation.)
So if Bob based the Hemi-Sync frequencies on his own brainwaves, hypnagogic theta with reduced alpha would be the logical place to start. When I asked Bob about this, he laughed and said that there was probably something to all this but that he had started developing Hemi-Sync long before he had had his first (conscious) out-of-body experience or had his brainwaves measured.
Early Understandings If a tuning fork designed to produce a frequency of 440 Hz is struck so as to cause it to oscillate, and is then brought into the vicinity of another 440 Hz tuning fork, the second fork will begin to oscillate. The first tuning fork is said to have entrained the second, or caused it to resonate. For one oscillating system to be capable of entraining another, the second system must be capable of achieving the same oscillating frequency. A 440 Hz tuning fork will not entrain a 300 Hz tuning fork because the second tuning fork will not vibrate at 440 Hz. Also, for one oscillating system to be capable of entraining another, the first system must have sufficient power or amplitude to overcome the homeostasis (stable state) of the second, and the first must be at a constant or fixed frequency. The tuning fork is an ideal example because it produces an oscillation of constant frequency and amplitude called a standing wave.
Back in those days, I postulated that the physics of entrainment applied to brainwaves as well. The electrochemical activity of the brain results in the production of electromagnetic waveforms (brainwaves) that change frequencies based on neural activity within the brain and can be objectively measured with sensitive equipment, the EEG. I wondered if Hemi-Sync could actually change this activity.
It seemed to me that caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol could alter brainwave activity. The senses of vision, touch, and hearing also provide easy access to the neural functions of the brain. Each of these senses responds to waveform activity within the surrounding environment and transmits information to the brain. Do the senses of sight, touch, and hearing, by their very nature, provide a fertile medium for entrainment of brainwaves? A strobe light flashing at 10 Hz will entrain occipital brainwaves to its frequency. Could the sound technology Bob Monroe called Hemi-Sync entrain the brain in the same way?
The strobe-entrainment effect involves only one of the sensory channels. The sense of kinesthetic touch is another. In one interesting experiment, I found a researcher had set up a standing wave of a desired frequency in a waterbed. The resultant tactile signals were seemingly effective in entraining the subject’s brainwaves to the selected frequency.
In the case of binaural beats, is the sense of hearing providing the neural avenues by which entrainment signals can be introduced into the electromagnetic cranial environment? Brainwave researchers had measured a low-amplitude, frequency-following response to binaural beating, but this volume-conducted reflection of the stimulus beating does not represent ongoing or dominant brainwave activity. I needed to learn more about brainwaves.
There is a popular notion that one can tell what a person is thinking by measuring brainwave patterns. This is like saying that one can tell what information is in a computer by simply measuring voltages present at various points, which of course is impossible. A more realistic analogy would be the telephone. A telephone has three states of consciousness:
State one is standby—the telephone sits waiting to be used.
State two is ringing—the telephone is actively soliciting attention.
State three is talking—the telephone is being used.
All of these states of consciousness of the telephone can be determined by measuring the line voltage of the telephone wires. Direct access to the telephone itself is not needed in order to know what it is doing. If 48 volts of direct current are present on the wires, the phone is in state one, or standby; if 100 volts of alternating current, the phone is in state two, or ringing. When there is a modulated 10-volt direct current on the phone wires, the telephone is in state three, or talking (being used). These telephone states of consciousness, so to speak, are discrete in that the telephone cannot be in more than one state at a time. It is waiting, ringing, or talking. But measuring line voltage and determining that the telephone is in state three (talking) does not reveal what is being said over the telephone.
The same is true of brainwaves. Measuring brainwave frequencies and associative patterns and detecting REM sleep (dreaming) does not reveal the dream content. Only by awakening the subject and asking for a description of the dream can the experimenter discover this. Brainwaves themselves exemplify arousal levels. They represent the electrochemical environment through which perceived physical reality is manifest. They do not reveal subjective or cognitive experiential content.
My research into the literature revealed that the human ability to hear a binaural beat appears to be the result of evolutionary adaptation. Many species can detect binaural beats: The frequencies at which the beats can be detected depend upon the size of the cranium. In the human, binaural beats of up to 20 Hz can be perceived when carrier tones are below approximately 1500 Hz. The sensation of hearing binaural beats occurs when two coherent sounds of nearly similar frequencies are presented, one to each ear, and the brain detects phase differences between these sounds. In an open environment, this phase difference would provide directional information to the listener, but when presented with stereo headphones or speakers the brain integrates the two signals, producing the binaural beat.
From the available literature, I discovered that binaural beats originate in the brainstem within the contralateral audio-processing regions of the brain called the superior olivary nuclei. Binaural beating is perceived as a fluctuating rhythm at the frequency of the difference between the stereo (left and right) auditory inputs. This auditory sensation is neurologically routed to the reticular formation in the brainstem and simultaneously volume conducted to the cortex where it can be objectively measured as the frequency-following response. As I stated earlier, this does not necessarily indicate a change in ongoing brainwave activity. A complete understanding of all this was going to require some research on my part.
Binaural Beats and Brain Function
I thought that an understanding of a possible neurological mechanism was important as foundation for the observed effectiveness of Hemi-Sync technology. I wanted to replicate the frequency-following response studies of other researchers to be sure, for myself, that binaural beats did in fact produce this EEG anomaly. This would also provide me a journey into the realm of academic research, a place I had seemingly not been before.
Hearing-acuity researchers had defined the
frequency-following response as a brainwave-frequency response (measured by EEG evoked-potential responses) that corresponds to the frequency of an auditory stimulus. Previous hearing-acuity research had demonstrated a frequency-following response to binaural beating—proof that the sensation of binaural beating has a neurological efficacy. However, a frequency-following response to binaural beats in brainwave frequency ranges usually associated with reported altered states of consciousness (e.g., theta states) had not, at this point, been objectively demonstrated using appropriate evoked potential EEG protocols.
Evoked-potential studies use time-domain averaging of a number of EEG responses to mathematically isolate and identify stimuli that would otherwise be overwhelmed by ongoing brainwave activity.
I thought that further study of frequency-following response would be vital in understanding the obvious effectiveness of the Hemi-Sync process and maybe would even lead me to a possible neurological mechanism.
The Frequency-Following Response Study
With this replication study, I objectively demonstrated a frequency-following response to binaural beats in brainwave frequency ranges associated with discrete theta states of consciousness—the stuff of Hemi-Sync. This was a critical step in validating previous hearing-acuity research. This study also proved to me, personally, that binaural beats did in fact have a neurological impact. But this only proved an auditory frequency-following response. It did not demonstrate that binaural beats have an ability to somehow engender psychophysiological state changes, alterations in ongoing brainwave activity.
As I said before, decades ago it was assumed that the mechanism behind the consciousness-altering effects of binaural beats was somehow related to the frequency-following response. I wrote and spoke of this myself many times. However, at that point in my research, it was hard to even speculate that the very low-amplitude brainwave activity (represented by the frequency-following response) could in some electromagnetic inductive way modify ongoing brainwave activity. On the other hand, the mere presence of a frequency-following response to the binaural beats of the Hemi-Sync process in this study provided valuable evidence of the neurological impact of this stimulus.
Through further literature review, I found that there is no neurological effect-mechanism to support the notion that
entrainment of binaural beating is responsible for alterations in brainwave arousal. The EEG signal strength of the measured auditory frequency-following response is extremely low, much too low to represent an overall ongoing brainwave state. Nevertheless, the frequency-following response to binaural beats remains an important
aspect in understanding their potential state-changing effects.
Demonstrating the presence of a frequency-following response to the binaural beats in the theta range using evoked-potential EEG protocols provided me with some evidence of the neurological impact of the Hemi-Sync stimulus. So, what is the mechanism behind the observed changes in overall brainwave activity? With more recent research, I took a deeper look into the probable neurological mechanism involved in changing cortical arousal levels (ongoing brainwaves).
Neurology and Hemi-Sync
Through further study of the available literature, I found out that ongoing brainwave activity is regulated by the brain's extended reticular-thalamic activation system. The neural-reticular formation is composed of a large, net-like diffuse area of the brainstem. The word reticular actually means
net-like. The reticular activating system interprets and reacts to information from internal stimuli like feelings, attitudes, and beliefs as
well as external sensory stimuli (like Hemi-Sync sound) by reactively regulating arousal states, the focus of attention, and levels of awareness. How we interpret, respond, and react to information, then, is managed by the brain’s reticular formation stimulating the
thalamus and cortex, and brainwave states of arousal. So it seemed to me that in order to alter arousal states, attentional focus, and levels of awareness, it was necessary to provide some sort of information input to the reticular activating system. And therein appears to reside the neurological mechanism for the powerful consciousness-altering effects of Hemi-Sync.
If I understood the scientific literature, it would appear that Hemi-Sync provides information, the complex, brainwave-like-pattern that engenders cortical adaptation. The reticular activating system distinguishes the unique binaural-beat waveform arising within the brainstem as brainwave pattern information. If internal stimuli, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and external sensory stimuli are not in conflict with this information (an internal, even unconscious, fear may be a source of conflict, for example), the reticular activating system seems to alter cortical arousal states to match the Hemi-Sync stimulus as a natural adaptive function.
In effect, as time passes the reticular activating system monitors the internal and external environment and arousal states, attentional focus, and levels of awareness to determine, from moment to moment, the most suitable way to deal with existing conditions. As long as no conflicts develop, the reticular naturally continues aligning the listener’s brainwave activity with the information in the Hemi-Sync sound field. The true mechanism, therefore, behind Hemi-Sync’s ability to alter cortical arousal and consciousness is not brainwave entrainment but adaptation to auditory stimulation of the reticular. This understanding of a neurological mechanism as foundation for the observed effectiveness of the Hemi-Sync technology was so important that I wanted to study this process further. Ever since my adventure through the flavor straw, I had been seeking to discover a practical explanation of how Hemi-Sync works.
Altering Consciousness with Hemi-Sync
Our state of consciousness can be described as a balance of cortical arousal level and subjective content. The reticular activating system in the brainstem is responsible for maintaining appropriate levels of arousal in the cortex as well as other specialized areas of the brain. And the subjective content (presumably, intracortical intercourse) of our experiences is dependent upon an individual’s experience level, one’s social-psychological conditioning, cognitive skills, and neurological development. I began to grasp an understanding of the power of Hemi-Sync.
The Hemi-Sync sound technology engenders the auditory sensation of binaural beating, and this rhythmic waveform can be objectively measured as a frequency-following response, providing evidence that it manifests within the brain. Since this waveform is neurologically routed to the reticular formation and since the reticular activating system governs cortical brainwave amplitudes, Hemi-Sync binaural beats (through the mechanism of the reticular) thereby induce alterations in brainwave amplitudes or the arousal side of the consciousness equation. From this understanding, Hemi-Sync focus levels (Focus 10, Focus 12, etc.) become levels of brainwave arousal.
I have read numerous anecdotal reports of state changes (alterations in consciousness) encouraged by various low-frequency binaural beats. Listening to selected binaural beats seems to propitious states of consciousness in a variety of applications. It has been reported that binaural beating has different effects depending on the frequency of the binaural-beat stimulation. I read that binaural beats in the delta (1 to 4 Hz) and theta (4 to 8 Hz) ranges are associated with reports of creativity, sensory integration, relaxed or meditative states, or as an aid to falling asleep. Binaural beats in the beta frequencies (typically 16 to 24 Hz) are associated with reports of increased concentration or alertness and enhanced-memory function.
Independent research has associated Hemi-Sync with changes in arousal leading to sensory integration, alpha biofeedback, relaxation, meditation, stress reduction, and pain management. I have read research reports linking Hemi-Sync with improved sleep, health care, enriched learning environments, enhanced memory, creativity, treatment of children with developmental disabilities, the facilitation of attention, and so-called peak experiences.
Further research validates Hemi-Sync’s use in the enhancement of hypnotizability, treatment of alcoholic depression, the promotion of vigilance, performance and mood, increased intuition, improved reliability in remote viewing, telepathy, and out-of-body experience. I found several free-running EEG studies that suggest that binaural beats may induce alterations in cortical arousal (ongoing brainwaves) and consciousness states. But I needed to do my own research. The only way I would know for sure how Hemi-Sync works was to find out for myself—something Bob Monroe had insisted on years ago.
Binaural Beats and Brainwave Arousal
I decided to do two free-running EEG studies. In the first study, I measured the neural accommodation (changes in ongoing or overall brainwave activity) associated with complex binaural-beat stimuli. The binaural-beat frequencies I used in the first study were based on the out-of-body EEG research on Bob Monroe and others, specifically the reduction of alpha activity and the increase in theta activity. In the second study, based on the same protocol, I measured changes in ongoing brainwave activity associated with placebo stimuli. By comparing the results of these two studies, I hoped to be able to validate the power of Hemi-Sync to alter consciousness.
The hypothesis in the first study was that listening to Hemi-Sync for several minutes would modify ongoing brainwave activity in the direction of the binaural beat stimuli. That is, increasing the amplitude of delta-frequency binaural-beat stimuli while decreasing the amplitude of alpha-frequency binaural-beat stimuli would result in comparable changes in arousal as measured by free-running EEG.
I wanted to mimic existing, commercially available Hemi-Sync recordings, so the experimental binaural-beat stimuli consisted of mixed sinusoidal tones producing complex frequency patterns (waveforms) changing over a period of forty-five minutes. I first recorded brainwaves during a no-stimulus baseline condition. Next, I recorded brainwaves for each subject during six periods for the forty-five-minute sequence of changing binaural beats condition. Finally, I made an EEG recording during a no-stimulus post-baseline condition.
I rejected the data from two of the subjects due to excessive movement artifact and used the remaining eighteen subjects' records for analysis. To determine statistical validity of the data, I conducted a multiple comparison procedure following a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), Dunnett’s Test, which compared the combined baselines (before and after) as a control mean with the binaural-beat stimulus periods. This analysis showed the reductions in the percentages of occipital alpha during stimuli conditions were significant (individually, p<.05, and together, p<.001) during five of six stimulus periods compared to baselines. Statistical analysis of the data also showed the increases in the percentages of central delta during stimuli conditions were significant (individually, p<.05, and together, p<.001) during four of six stimulus periods compared to baselines.
So, the results of this first study showed changes in brainwave arousal activity during the stimulus periods when compared to the baseline recordings both with increased central delta and decreased occipital alpha. These decreases in alpha amplitudes, coupled with increasing delta activity, indicated reduced cortical arousal. The mounting changes over the time of the test and the course of the stimuli suggest a deepening trend of progressive relaxation and falling asleep.
A basic question raised by this first study was the role of Hemi-Sync stimulation in solely or directly causing the brainwave changes observed. Several of the subjects had had considerable previous experience with Hemi-Sync. Could it be that these subjects were naturally adept at altering levels of arousal or had acquired this ability through repeated Hemi-Sync practice? The deepening trend over time also suggests the need to take into consideration naturally occurring, progressive state changes associated with falling asleep. I designed a second study to address these concerns. The hypothesis of the second study was that listening to monotonous tones (a placebo stimuli without binaural beats) for several minutes would result in habituation of the stimuli and a slowing of ongoing brainwave activity and a progressive state of relaxation.
The placebo stimuli consisted of the same sinusoidal tones used in the first study, except that they did not produce binaural beating. As in the first study, the volunteer subjects experienced a no-stimulus baseline condition during which a ninety-second EEG recording was taken. Next, each one listened to the same forty-five-minute sequence of changing tones during which six 90-second EEG recordings were taken at regular intervals. To reduce the influence of expectation, subjects were again blind as to the character of the tones. Finally, during a no-stimulus post-baseline condition, a ninety-second EEG recording was made.
A multiple comparison procedure following a one-way ANOVA (Dunnett’s Test) comparing the combined baselines as a control mean with the placebo stimuli periods showed nonsignificant reductions in the percentages of occipital alpha during stimuli conditions compared to baselines. Statistical analysis showed the nonsignificant increases in the percentages of central delta during stimuli conditions compared to baselines. The results of this second study, unlike the first, did not significantly distinguish occipital alpha and central delta brainwave activity during the placebo stimulus periods from the baselines.
The hypothesis of this placebo study expected observed decreases in alpha amplitudes coupled with increasing delta activity as a reaction to listening to monotonous tones. These changes, however, were not statistically significant, meaning that they could be expected to have happened by chance alone.
Together, these studies demonstrate that Hemi-Sync has a direct effect on brainwave activity, involving the interaction of binaural-beat stimulation with the basic rest-activity cycle, other sensory stimulation, and higher-order memory or attentional processes under the scrutiny of the reticular formation. All of these systems cooperate to maintain our homeostasis and optimal performance. Our natural state-changing mechanisms, ultradian rhythms, individual differences, prior experience, and beliefs all contribute to the effects of and response to Hemi-Sync. But for me the bottom line, so to speak, was that these two studies provided statistical observations demonstrating changes in cortical arousal in response to Hemi-Sync. I had my proof.
Ever since my memorable adventure through the flavor straw, I had been wondering how Hemi-Sync worked. These studies showed me that the power of Hemi-Sync to provide an environment conducive to personal explorations beyond our physical senses was real, not snake oil, or self-fulfilling prophecy, or just wishful thinking, but real—real, that is, at least in terms of modern neurology. But did this mean that the binaural beats of the Hemi-Sync process constituted an irresistible force that could really put the whammy on you, so to speak? No! And I think Bob Monroe explained it best:
Hemi-Sync is like music. Imagine yourself out for an evening for dinner and dance. There you are, sitting at your table, having a cocktail, when the band strikes up a tune. Observing the couples around you, you see that some are getting up to dance, while others remain engrossed in their intimate conversations.
You notice that you are tapping your foot to the beat of the music and your companion has stopped talking and is listening intently to the familiar tune. The waiter suddenly appears, and your attention and response to the music fall away as you focus your attention on savory menu items.
What this all means is that music, like Hemi-Sync, only provides an inviting environment conducive to shifting your experience. The band music did not force or compel couples to dance. And Hemi-Sync cannot force or compel you in any way. Only you can change you. Your response to Hemi-Sync depends on you. If you willingly participate with the music, your experiences will be limited only by your own skill, expectations, and beliefs.
In the YouTube video below illustrates a little bit about the experiential programs offered at The Monroe Institute. Bob felt strongly that through experience one can come to know they are more than their physical body. He constructed these programs to provide such personal experiences.
Here's some research you probably haven't heard about before. The people working with The Global Consciousness Project are seeking to find meaningful correlations in random data. When human consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. We calculate one in a trillion odds that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures. I tell you this for background on what may be an unfamiliar subject.
At The Monroe Institute we wondered if the coherent consciousness experienced during Monroe workshops using Hemi-Sync would change RNGs. An exploratory hypothesis predicted that fluctuations in entrained mental coherence associated with the workshop activities would modulate the random data recorded during the workshops. We conducted a long-running experiment to see if this was true. The experiment was published in an academic journal, the Journal of Scientific Exploration; Fall 2009, Vol. 23 Issue 3, p263, and titled Exploratory Evidence for Correlations Between Entrained Mental Coherence and Random Physical Systems. Results showed that during the workshops the overall correlation was positive, as predicted (p = .008); during control periods the same RNGs produced chance results (p = .74). Random data generated in distant locations also produced results consistent with chance. Perhaps it is Hemi-Sync's ability to provide a coherent mind state that enables these explorations in human consciousness
So was it Hemi-Sync that made my experience through the flavor straw back in 1977 possible? Or was it, as Bob had told me back then, that my experience was the result of my metaphysical upbringing and my intent? The answer to both questions is yes. Listening to Hemi-Sync apparently has the advantage of altering brainwave arousal, but one’s subjective or cognitive experience of this shift is dependent upon one's beliefs, social-psychological conditioning, mental abilities or skills, intent, and perhaps even one's personal spiritual path or agenda.