‘High’ Notes

The Asian Age.  | Swati Sharma

Life, More Features

If one goes by the latest trends, it is indeed easy to ‘get a kick’ if one gets hooked on to binaural beats aka “digital drugs”.

Picture used for representation purpose only

There are millions who will vouch that listening to mellifluous musical notes can make them ecstatic. But ever heard of an individual getting a ‘high’ while listening to music, and going into a Nirvana-like trance where nothing else matters but his worldly bliss?

Well, latest trends tell us it is indeed easy to ‘get a kick’ if one gets hooked on to binaural beats aka “digital drugs”. Available on I-Doser and YouTube, these “digital drugs” sound like a low hum and claim to produce highs, insights, and even hallucinations! Binaural beats work by combining tones in each ear through a pair of headphones and are designed to alter brainwaves. While these digital drugs have their drawbacks, the number of users, the thousands that get added every other day, and the hundreds of videos on YouTube, Facebook and I-Doser prove that this trend is at its peak.

Can listening to a specific tone provide such a high? “Binaural beats therapy is an emergency sound wave therapy, which makes use of the proven fact that the right and left ears receive slightly different frequency tones. However, the brain receives only a single tone. At some frequencies, the tone is like a relaxant that decreases the muscle tone and makes one sleepy while at some frequencies, it increases alertness and concentration with the possibility of increasing mental agitation,” explains Dr Deepika S., Senior Consultant, Neurophysician at Apollo Hospitals.

How exactly does it work?

“The brain reacts to frequencies, and the binaural beats fed into both ears create an audiogram inside the mind and stimulates a virtual experience. This has direct effects on the healing chakras. References of sages in meditation using beejakshari mantras are aplenty in the scriptures.

The present day version of those mantras is that frequencies generated digitally can simulate cosmic sounds and help bring the mind under control. Buoyed by the scientific breakthroughs vis-a-vis binaural beats, research and experiments are on to make use of them in therapeutic practices by psychiatrists, as also to determine the positives,” says music director Shashi Preetam.

On the positive side, audio frequencies do not have any side-effects on one’s physiology like drugs and narcotics. They can calm a person down or take them to a mental state whereupon they ‘live’ their feelings while getting lost in a make-believe world — a state different from drug addiction and its ill-effects.

“Therefore, a suggestion can be induced while putting the brain under a state of ecstasy in meditation that will help in creating a virtual feeling of joy or sorrow. Music and sound have a phenomenal influence on our hormones,” adds Shashi.

Even though there is some scientific backing, there is still no supporting evidence on the magnetic powers of digital drugs. “Though temporary effects may be good, long-term influences are not known since the therapy affects only some centres of the brain; repeated usage may increase the likelihood of seizures. Safety in epileptics has not been studied. Long-term effects on areas in the brain which regulate addiction are unknown, which justifies the worries that experts have with regard to this new therapy. Till further studies and proven results are achieved at a consistent rate, it cannot be recommended medically,” reasons Dr Deepika.

Can these digital drugs then be considered just a marketing tactic? Is the state of mind really linked to their potency? Brand coach and strategist Ambi Parameswaran says, “Looks like a gimmick. But brands have been trying to create signature tunes. Ninety percent of them become addictive. And comparing a musical tune or an earworm to psychotropic drugs is indeed a big leap. Digital media is addictive in many ways and excessive use can lead to depression. That applies to music as well.”