Tami Simon: You're listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. Dr. Jeff, as I call Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, began experimenting with sound and its effect on the body and brain in 1981 at his holistic health center in Virginia. His experiments involved using exact sound frequencies to make chiropractic, spinal, and cranial adjustments to stimulate and normalize organ function, and to balance acupuncture meridians. His clinical research has led to groundbreaking discoveries in how sound frequency patterns built into musical soundtracks and can entrain brainwaves can trigger numerous health benefits. He has created dozens of audio programs designed to create specific changes in brainwave patterns, including one of the most popular programs Sounds True has ever distributed, Brainwave Suite, as well as the Alpha Relaxation System and the Delta Sleep System, where he offers his breakthrough audio techniques that are proven to increase levels of delta brainwave activity, which has helped thousands of people to achieve regular, restful, and revitalizing sleep.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Dr. Jeff and I spoke about the science behind brainwave entrainment. We also talked about the discovery of the gamma brain state and how it relates to meditation. And, finally, we talked about what he calls "primordial sounds," and how he layers these sounds into the recordings he creates. Here's my very intriguing conversation with Dr. Jeff.
To begin with, Dr. Jeff, I'd love to know more about your background in sound and healing. And, specifically, I read that you started in this field working with people chiropractically, and using sound to help resolve problems that someone would normally bring to a chiropractor.
Jeffrey Thompson: Well, I started out as a musician. I've been playing and composing my own music since I was 12. I play guitar and keyboards. After I graduated from high school, I went to college and art school, so I thought I was supposed to be an artist—I actually have a bachelor’s of fine arts degree. I went out in the world and had a couple of businesses. In 1977, I went back to school when I was 29—I went to chiropractic school at the urging of one of my best friends who said, "You've got to come out and see what these guys are doing." So I went out to Davenport, Iowa, and saw what was going on and got very interested.
It was kind of interesting—I never really went to chiropractic school to become a chiropractor; I went as kind of a part of a spiritual journey, because the physical body is kind of a textbook of universal law, according to esoteric texts. So I thought that by learning the nth degree of information that we know about the body anatomically [and] physiologically, I would see the correlations. I certainly was not disappointed.
You know, I never had a chiropractic adjustment when I went to chiropractic school. That was kind of strange. But at the other end, you go through these four years of intense study. I realized quickly that the only way I could memorize all of the muscles, and all of the attachments, and all of the bones, and all of the joints, and all of the cells, and the intricacies of the brain, and the wiring diagrams of the brain, and neurophysiology was to draw it. So if I drew the muscles, and drew the bones, and drew the brain, and drew the connections, and labeled them, and shaded them, and activated my artist half, that by the time I finished drawing it, it was in my brain.
So I'm making straight As in the most difficult subjects, CNS—Central Nervous System—Peripheral Nervous System, Wiring Diagrams of the Brain, because I had drawn them, and I had [them] burned into my mind. And then fellow students saw these drawings and said, "Oh, those are cool. Can I have a copy of that?" Pretty soon, two plus two equaled four and I was publishing these study guides. Drawing study guides for these classes, I was putting myself through school as a medical illustrator. You never know what's going to happen. That was where my art training paid off.
When I graduated, I got out into practice and I was working as an associate in the largest holistic health center in Virginia. [It was] Very fertile ground with pretty much every holistic health technique under one roof—[it was] one of the first clinics in the country to have laser acupuncture. We had a whole suite for colon therapy. We had a whole section for biomagnetic therapy using magnetic fields to influence organ function, energy fields, blood labs for nutritional studies—all kinds of interesting stuff.
I realized I was making enough money now to do something I had always wanted to do, which was to make an album of my music as a composer. I was expecting that I was going to make a couple hundred tapes—because this was before CDs were invented—and maybe give them away as Christmas presents for the next 10 years. I produced the tape, and within a month, they were taken up by all of the New Age music distributors—15 music distributors—and it was a hit. It was adopted by the National Hypnotherapy Association as one of the first tapes for brain entrainment hypnosis. That was my first album, I Love Sky. That was 1986.
So it was kind of like the universe said "yes" to me. And it was like, "Wow, I stuck this out there, and the universe said 'yes' to me!" So that was significant. In order to produce this album, I had to take a leap. I had to spend a lot of money on electronic keyboards. I bought the most sophisticated one on the market at that time: a Yamaha DX7 Digital Synthesis. You could make your own sounds out of thin air. So I started intensely designing my own fantasy instrument sounds, bought a modest recording studio, [and] outfitted myself with professional reel-to-reel recorders and mixing boards.
Before I even started composing, I found myself experimenting on my wife, who had a low-back problem. It occurred to me that I was wondering if I could make a chiropractic adjustment to her fifth lumbar using a precisely tuned sound wave, kind of on the wine glass principle. The vertebrae is a specific shape, density, and mass, so you should be able to resonate it specifically with a certain sound wave, like a wine glass. I set that experiment up, and gave it a try, and it worked. And that was a revelation for me. It's one of those moments in my life that a shift happened. A huge shift, because that started me down the road of a certain kind of scientific exploration of highly specifically tuned sound waves and their ability to resonate different body tissues.
TS: Now, Dr. Jeff, let me ask you a question. How did you know what type of sound to make with your instruments that would resonate with your wife's lower lumbar problem? How did you figure that out?
JT: Good question. Excellent question. I studied all of the exotic healing techniques when I was in school. I got certified in various types of cranial psychotherapy, and energy fieldwork, and clarity therapy, biomagnetic therapy, things like that. Also, I got certified in kinesthesiology muscle testing—the advanced forms of that, the medical forms of that—and so I was doing a lot of muscle testing in my clinic. The muscle testing idea, by the way, is based on a stress response.
Here's the big idea: there's a biological intelligence that knows how to grow my body out of two cells and differentiate all of those [cells] into what they are now, and make them all work and function on automatic without me thinking about it. Who it is that is me thinking about it, who I identify as "me" is really not me at all. It's a tool that I use, like a hand. My personality is a tool that I need for social interaction, for conversations with you, for filling out tax forms, writing checks, driving a car, talking to people, doing things. But it's a tool that I use; it's not me. I consider “me” to be something larger, something before a thought, something that knows how to grow and maintain the system. And I think that mystical experiences for people, including myself, have that as an experience. The experience of who you think you are drops away, and you come to a deeper region, a region that's connected to everything, a kind of organizing intelligence that knows how to grow a body or a planetary ecosystem.
Anyway, that system, this biological intelligent mind, is also the internal physician program. It has tabs on everything that is going on inside my body. It knows precisely which things are out of balance and how much, and which things need to be worked on in which order- a priority list that only it knows. Not me, on the outside here with my thinking mind. I don't have a clue.
So you can use this muscle testing idea to tap into that system and get a read out of what it knows through a stress response that you can monitor in the body. Here's how that works: If my wife says she's got this low back problem, and it hurts, I go and start touching various areas of her low back until I find a tender spot. I also can feel, with my fingers, the alignment of the spine. It feels like the fifth lumbar is rotated around over to the right, which means that the right joint is pinched and hurting and the muscles get tight to lock it down and immobilize it so it can't go out any further. So we've got two sources of pain.
If I start to push on that vertebra in various directions at the moment, then I push the vertebra in the direction that it's out, so to speak. I just made a bad situation worse. If I push it to the right, the right compressed joint gets more compressed. And new signals fire to the brain. The brain has an immediate low-arm response to this: "Whoa. A bad situation just got worse here." So all of the alarms go off, and the system gears itself to defend its life, just in case. Because one of the primary programs in the system is survival. Rule number one: survive. Rule number two: do no self-harm. So basically, all of my five senses are stuck out into the world, monitoring input to see if my life is being threatened, and neuro input coming into the brain is evaluated. Is this good, neutral? Is this bad? And, if it's bad, even to the slightest degree, the system will have a full-blown alarm response to protect its life, just to be on the safe side. Better to have a full-blown alarm response when needed than to not have a response and die.
So you can take advantage of that. If I push on the fifth lumbar and make a bad situation worse, the system has a full-blown alarm response. And part of that alarm response it that all the system's attention goes to the back. The muscle that I was testing, that was strong, loses its strength because attention has been diverted. It's more important to find out what's happening at the L-5 than it is to keep the deltoid muscle strong. Previous ability for the muscle to lock and be strong is lost, and it feels spongy and weak.
So here's the answer to your question. She's lying there on the table, and I'm pushing on the vertebrae in different directions, and each time I push, I test the strength of one of her muscles, and I use the same muscle each time. So I push on the vertebra this way, and nothing happens, I push it that way, and nothing happens, I push it this way, and the muscle gets weak, that's confirmation for me that I've initiated a stress response, and the nervous system is now paying attention to the spine and not the muscle. Now I'm in a perfect position to find out what can I use to neutralize the body's stress response while I'm also stressing it out. Because the only thing that will neutralize the stress response is to give the body what it needs to fix it at the same time, and the two cancel each other out.
Now, with my keyboard—these digital keyboards are pretty cool. They're great scientific tone generators. You have specific oscillators that can be tuned. I can tune between C and C sharp by a hundred steps with a digital readout, so I get accurate to a few decibel points of sound frequencies. Gor instance, let's say that I push on the vertebra, get a weak muscle. [I] play a tone: C, nothing happens; C-sharp, nothing happens; D, nothing happens; D-sharp, and the muscle's feeling a little stronger; E, stronger still; F, weaker. Back to E, it's stronger.
Then I start adding microtunings. Let's do E plus 10 cents—10 divisions of sharp, out of 100—add 20, add 30. Each time you do that, the muscle's getting stronger, until finally, it's 100 percent strong. At D plus 33, that's the strongest muscle response I get. So now, even though I'm stressing the vertebra out, playing this tone of D plus 33, the tone is neutralized. That means that I've found the frequency for that vertebra. And now, if I play that sound frequency into the vertebra, it resonates the vertebra like a wine glass, and now it's floating in a state of resonance. It's separated from the vertebrae above and below through resonances in the state of motion. And that's what unlocks the joint.
TS: Now, Dr. Jeff, when you say, "like a wine glass," can you tell me what you mean by that?
JT: When the opera singer sings the note for the wine glass, the wine glass starts to vibrate. Ella Fitzgerald, when she sings it loud enough, the wine glass shatters. The scientific phenomenon behind that is called the "science of couple oscillators." It's really the underpinnings for this whole idea behind physical resonance with sound, and eventually, brainwave entrainment, which we'll talk about here.
There [is] out there—for anyone who wants to look this up—an excellent definitive article on this science in Scientific American. That was in October of 1993, called, "Coupled Oscillators and Biological Synchronization." And, in that article, the whole thing started in 1665 with this guy named Christiaan Huygens. He was a scientist living in Europe, and he entered into a contest in Europe to make the most accurate timepiece in the world for shipping, for navigating ships. You know, a ship has to sail out in the Pacific Ocean, or the Atlantic Ocean, and it has to sail for 10 hours, 23 minutes, and 15 seconds, and then make a 45-degree turn to the left and travel for 2 hours, 15 seconds, and then make a 35-degree turn to the right, and if those times are off by a fraction of a second, you're a hundred miles off course, and you die.
So [Huygens] won that contest, and he won it by inventing the pendulum clock. His pendulum clocks were not just any old clocks in the wall; it was this highly super-scientific instrument. And then he got sick, and he's lying in bed, and he's watching these two identical pendulum clocks on the wall, and their pendulums are in perfect synchronicity with each other, which doesn't make sense because these clocks are not mechanically connected together in any way. There's no explanation for why they would not go out of sync eventually. So he took one off the wall, put it on another wall, and as soon as they were on different walls, they went into an asyncronist mode, like you would expect. He put them back on the same wall, and in 20 minutes they're back in sync, and they never go out of sync. That was the raw beginnings of this whole science that developed called, "the Science of Coupled Oscillators."
And, actually, the secret to it was the vibrations of the gears and the mechanisms of the two clocks were using the wall as a sounding board to transmit the vibrations to communicate with each other. That kicks in this universal principle of coupled oscillators that governs everything. It governs the resonance of subatomic particles to the formation of supergallactic nebula. It's why my heart cells beat when they touch, why fish swim in schools and birds fly in flocks and people congregate together. That's why brainwaves fire in waves in synchronicity. Neurons in the brain fire in synchronicity waves (that's why they're called brainwaves), sweeps of depolarization across the cortex in waves, all based on this idea that everything in the universe dances together to the same drummer. But no one's beating the drum except everyone—kind of a Zen thing.
It's a consensus dance to save energy. It saves energy to dance to a drumbeat that's already beating, then to invent your own separate and distinct drum beat, all on your own. And because the universe is an ecological universe, it's always searching for paths of least resistance to save energy. So you can use this idea to entrain brainwaves and to affect brain function and states of consciousness, as we'll discover. In this case, it's the reason why the wine glass vibrates when you sing the right note. So I have a wine glass in front of me, and I look at this wine glass. The question arises, "How do I know which note to sing?" You know? What note do I sing? How do I know which one to sing? I've got a wine glass right here.
TS: OK, can you break it live on the air like this, Dr. Jeff?
JT: [Laughs] I'm not an opera singer. I could do it with my equipment. But how you tell what note to sing is by pinging the glass. Here: [ping sound] Did you hear that?
TS: I could, yes, perfectly.
JT: So I ping the glass with my finger, and I hear this note, and that's the fundamental resonant frequency of the atomic structure of this glass in this shape, density, and mass. The wine glass I'm looking at, the shape of it, is a unique event in the universe. No other glass, [even] coming out of the same mold, is going to have exactly the same frequency. Its shape, density, and mass is ever so slightly changed. But it represents a standing way of vibrational fields, and an anatomic structure that looks like this shape. And it has a resonant frequency that holds it together.
So if I pitch my voice at that same frequency, and send those sound waves into the glass, and it impacts the glass, and the glass bends and torks, in sympathetic resonance, we form a coupled oscillator pair, where the vibrating frequencies of my vocal chords push airwaves that impact the glass. And it responds by forming a moving-back-and-forth coupled pair to my vocal chords. Then, if my vocal chords amp up the volume, if I get louder, and louder, and louder, the glass responds. It bends and torques, and resonates bigger, and bigger, and bigger until eventually, if I can overpower it with the volume of my voice—that's why you need an opera singer—you can raise the resonant field of this wine glass to a point where it can't contain its own energy anymore; and then it explodes. And that's the shattering of the wine glass.
So if you think about this from a standpoint of therapy, if your wine glass is your fifth lumbar, and you have an instrument that can precisely tune to the frequency of the vertebra, you can put the vertebra into a resonant field state of vibration. And, if you raise the volume, it can resonate to a point where it's floating in relation to the stuck joint of the bone above and below and disengage it. So the chiropractic adjustment is made with sound waves never touch a person. On the other hand, let's say that we have a tumor—an inoperable tumor on your brain. Why can't we shatter the wine glass therapeutically? That's pretty much what they're doing with ultrasounds with kidney stones, and gallbladder stones, and things like that.
TS: Now, in terms of how this has informed your work with brainwave entrainment, because there are a lot of things I'd like to talk to you about, I think that many people are familiar with the idea that there are beta, alpha, theta brainwave states. Help me understand from your work how the recordings you make entrain us to these states and what the benefit of this is.
JT: Yes. Well, OK, so let's take this coupled oscillator idea and extend it out. My physical body times itself to pulses in the world around me. There are light pulses, magnetic field pulses, and sound pulses, all kinds of things out there that I'm dancing to. Light pulses, day-length, moon phase. You know, the female mestrual cycle is timed to a full moon, a new moon phase of 28 and a half days, so an ovulation cycle happens in phase with that.
That was a big successful part of my practice—women. Women's problems and children. The women, more than half, were coming with menstrual problems. The ones who had irregular menstrual cycles, I could fix about 40 percent of them by having them use a very low-watt light source in their bedroom for the two weeks during the new moon, fooling the pineal gland, that sets the body clocks, into thinking the full moon was still shining through the window and resetting the ovulation cycle back in phase relationship to the moon. Then all of the problems went away.
Same thing with seasonal affective disorder, where the pineal gland is no longer in step with the length of the day and the seasons so your body's thermostat is set to the wrong season. That causes all kinds of problems. And that could be reset by exposure every day to an hour of a full-spectrum daylight bulb, resetting the clock. So it's kind of with that background that I had a working knowledge clinically of a rudimentary form of entrainment. That's a form of entrainment.
So with sound waves, in a sense, brainwaves are this unique kind of relationship between the speed of the firing of the neurons of the brain in states of consciousness. If you can control the speed of the firing of the brainwaves, you can control consciousness. Or at least you can nudge it in different directions. It’s kind of like, you know, I said there are neurons in the brain, three hundred billion neurons, three trillion connections, axon connections, and the neurons are like computers, and they're all wired together, forming an array, so it acts like a giant computer. They all communicate to each other, and they communicate in various forms of synchronicity.
When I went to school, we learned that there were four brain states. Now it's expanded beyond that, but the brain states were beta, alpha, theta, delta. Each is associated with a state of consciousness, and different speeds of this wave depolarization, where the sweeps of electrical discharge sweep across the cortex send a wave, and it's a certain number of waves per second. So if I'm in an externally focused beta state, the depolarization wave speed is somewhere between 13 and 35 times per second or hertz. And that's a certain state of consciousness. If the frequency slowed down and goes below 13, and I enter into an alpha phase, that's a different state of consciousness, and there's a different kind of waveform that shows up.
So it's really a different neuroprogram that turns on, and what turns it on, in my opinion, is the brainwave frequency itself. There are key individualized brainwave frequencies that are accurate to a couple of decibel points that the brain has cued as initiation frequencies for starting a new program—starting a beta program, or an alpha program, or a theta program. Some of these are tied in sleep to healing regimens—physical recuperation at night during sleep, emotional recuperation, mental recuperation, alpha, theta, delta sleep modes. What turns each one on is when the brainwaves slow down and hit a target frequency, it initiates the next program. And, with that in mind, using brain entrainment with sound, we can pick the lock of those programs and make them run.
It goes beyond that. We can pick the locks of [the] neuroprograms my brain uses to unlock my long-term memory storehouse for learning, or for where my brain goes when I tap my own creativity, or where my brain [goes] in a state of enlightenment, or a state of spiritual revelry or mystical experience, or where my brain [goes] when I'm in the flow, as an athlete. All these different kinds of states that we can go to have a signature brainwave pattern that go with them. And, if we have a tool that can resonate these brainwaves and can cause them to go to a place of choice, we have a powerful tool for taking control over our lives and then exercising that.
TS: Are these brain states actual separate states that don't coexist at the same time? Could I be in a theta and delta state at the same time, or are they just separate?
JT: Oh, yes. Yes. The brain does multitasking quite well. So let's say that I'm driving in my car. Well, first of all, the brain, what is does best is save energy. How it saves energy is by habitualizing tasks that we do more than once—actually, that we do more than twice. Three times is a pattern. I call that "body mudras”—a physical body position that is recognized by the nervous system to unlock a program. So if I brush my teeth, and get in bed and turn the light out, and I'm laying horizontal with the covers over my head, my brain is going, "Hey, this is the sleep program." And it initiated it. But if I cross my legs and erect my spine, that's the meditation program. If I put one foot in front of the other a few steps, that's the walking program. I don't think about it anymore; it's automated. I get in my car and start driving—that's the driving program.
So now I'm initiating the driving program, and while I'm doing that, I'm listening to the radio, having a conversation with somebody, thinking about yesterday, visualizing the person I'm going to talk to, and still take the right exit. So all of this stuff is happening at the same time. It's compartmentalized. It's holographic. It's difficult to explain neurophysiologically. But, when we hook people up to sophisticated brain monitors, we can see all of this activity going on simultaneously. In addition, this idea that we're going to entrain you to an alpha state or a theta state, or whatever, it's really not exactly correct, because the brain has all of the brain states going on at the same time, they're just in a different amplitude relationship to each other.
So when we talk about a person being in an alpha state, a mid-range alpha state, what we're seeing [on an EEG] is a maximum amplitude of that particular alpha brain frequency but lesser amplitudes of other alpha frequencies, and theta frequencies, and delta frequencies going on at the same time. So it's really this pattern that's where it's at. But you can pick a pattern by initiating a brain entrainment frequency that's single.
TS: So for example, when I listen to your alpha relaxation system, I'm emphasizing the alpha state. All of the brainwave states are present, but I'm emphasizing the alpha state to come into prominence. Is that correct?
JT: Correct. Correct. We're using a scientific approach to stack the deck in our favor for you to initiate a certain configuration of how your brain is functioning and a certain state of consciousness that goes with it. So that would be exemplified by a dominant alpha region of highest amplitude, and less dominant in other regions, and some of them very, very undominant. Beta would be extremely small, maybe unmeasurable. It depends. But, you know, it's certain that you can listen to that particular track you're talking about, fall into a revelry where you're visualizing, and that means you've got theta function going. Anything that has to do with visualizing or watching a little movie in your mind—that's theta functioning. Alpha function is pondering.
Beta is looking at the tree, and alpha is looking at the forest out of peripheral vision. So it's more of a pondering mode of the mind, which can slip into picking out a detail and examining it. And so that means that there is a small beta function entering in, where I can have a feeling about that and it extends out into a memory movie, or an anticipation movie of the future. That's a theta function. So the brain is plastic, and shifting and moving these things around all of the time, but there's a dominance at any given moment, and particularly a dominance over time. You analyze these brain pattern readouts over a 30-minute session, and you can see that 95 percent of the time was spent in this particular range of alpha.
As a composer, when I create a soundtrack for a certain brain state, there are a number of different elements going on aside from the brain entrainment aspect. Brain entrainment is just one part of what's going on on these soundtracks. If I want to produce a theta soundtrack, the music had better be theta music—the kind of music that puts you into that state all by itself. It would have to be mystical, dreamy. That's what a theta state is; it's a dream state. It's the language of metaphors in the unconscious mind, and that has a certain type of quality to the certain type of music you would expect to be there. So if you create that kind of music, it will put you there by itself. Then there's this idea of primordial sounds—which we haven't talked about yet, but we will—that can activate areas of the unconscious mind through pattern recognition that tweaks this certain emotional state, a certain state of consciousness.
Then there are at least six different ways of entraining the brain using sound pulses. One of those methods is called “binaural beats,” using two tones interacting to create a pulse that drives the brainwaves. And that's the one that can lead to synchronicity of the right-left hemispheres, if you're using headphones. We're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here. But a given soundtrack is complex. Most of them are about 30 tracks deep. There are about 30 tracks of different kinds of sounds going, many of them you can't even recognize because they've been altered and slowed.
I hung out with this guy, Richard Bandler; he was one of the two guys that developed neuro-linguistic programming. There were Grindler and Bandler. And Grindler was like you'd expect. He looked like a psychotherapist. Bander looks like a Hell's Angel. [Laughs] He's a mad man, but he's a genius. Through some of the contact with him, I was back with patients, identifying the belief systems that were sabotaging my life. And, after seeing hundreds of different people, after a while, they start to categorize into three basic [groups]. One has to do with love in my life, one has to do with health, and one has to do with money.
How we deal with each of those elements sets the character of our life. Most of us are harboring some kind of negative belief system down in there that we're afraid to mention. I wanted to get patients to speak it out—say it out loud. You know, no matter what I do, how much money I spend, how many doctors I go to, I'm never going to get well. You know? That's scary. [Laughs] No matter how many bushes I beat, or how many jobs I get, what I do, I'll never make it.
So we want to get that out and replace it, rescript the subconscious mind with this positive statement: Abundance is my universal birthright—when I walk my path, what I'm here for, things like that. So I have specific soundtracks for patients, I do custom soundtracks, for patients. They take a CD home with them. After seeing thousands of patients all of these years, I see bell curve studies showing up of which kind of music, which kind of sounds, which kind of entrainments frequencies are best for this state of consciousness or that state of consciousness. And then that generates the knowledge for producing a generic set of CDs based on those principles that I'm seeing with those populations over time.
You know, I hook my patients up to medical monitoring equipment. So in the office, you'll come in, and we'll hook you up to something called a real-time heart rate variability monitor. That takes heart rate information, does different algorithms to it [and] pops up new screens, which show frequency bandwidths in your heart. The frequency bandwidths stand for the functioning of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, the two branches of nerves from the brainstem that automatically control all of your body's systems without you thinking about it. It's the master control that tells all systems what to do. If that system is imbalanced, then all of the systems it controls have to exhibit some sentiment of balance. Because they are only doing what they're told to do from central command.
So instead of using specific frequencies for your fifth lumbar, or your cervical, or your liver, fifth chakra, or this gland, or that acupuncture meridian, or this cranial—the imbalance in all of those systems I've just described is not their fault. They're only doing what they're told to do from central command, a higher-order system. When it has a problem, they have a problem, and they're exhibiting it. Nobody's been able to figure out how to get to central command to fix it there. Everybody's trying to communicate to it through peripheral systems by fixing each system that communicates back to central command, so it begins to adopt the new program.
But with sound waves, it doesn't matter where the tissue is buried in your body anymore. You can mainline direct to the brainstem with sound waves and tune it directly. And you can watch that you're making the changes that you want to make by monitoring the heartbeat variability system that shows you a real-time readout of the functioning of the automatic nervous system.
So that's how I'm finding out which frequencies to use to balance a person's body. It's also how I'm choosing which brainwave frequencies to use because that will identify highly specific brainwave frequency patterns that are accurate to a few of decibel points to unlock programs in the brain—alpha programs, beta programs, delta programs.
TS: Now, Dr. Jeff, one of the things I'm curious about is that you've made recording not just for alpha, theta, and delta, but also for gamma state. Can you tell me what that is?
JT: Yes. So like I said, when I went to school it was just beta, alpha, theta, delta. In 1989, I think, I got one of the first EEG programs from Holland. It was a brand new idea: an EEG program that could plug into a personal computer. So it came with a program and an interface for hooking [up] a person's head. And, on your regular computer, you could monitor a person's brainwaves. Up to that point it was a medical piece of equipment that cost $20,000, and [required] a Lexicor system, and all of this stuff, that only professionals could afford. This was the first time that it was coming into a regular public domain.
So I hooked up every patient for two years and watched their brainwaves. Part of it was to reproduce the work of a scientist named Gerald Oster. He's really the one who sparked the entire revolution of brainwave entrainment with sound waves. He published the definitive article—once again, at our friend Scientific American, and this one was in the December 1973 edition—called, "Auditory Beats in the Brain," by Gerald Oster, spelled with a "G." In that [article] he showed that you could hook a person up to an EEG and play an external sound post that's pulsing at a brainwave speed, and the brainwaves will try to adjust themselves to match that speed and lock onto it like a coupled oscillator. And, in doing so, your state of consciousness changes.
Probably the earliest use of this technique was shamanic drumming practices from thousands and thousands of years ago. You're pounding a drum at a certain speed. So if you ever attend a shamanic drum beat going [beats], can you hear that?
JT: [Beats and chants] It's about that speed. I've measured that speed. That drumbeat is about four and a half cycles per second. That's a deep, theta brain entrainment pulse. That means that we're taking a person from a waking state an upper beta, 20-25 hertz, and having it travel down, through alpha, into theta, and into deep theta to match this 4.5 hertz and put you into a dream state without going to sleep first. That's the key.
A person who goes into a shamanic trance state is not asleep. Yet, they're in a theta state that's normally associated with dreaming sleep. And that's what I'm talking about when we're talking about different mudras. If I play a theta meditation CD set that I made, and you lay down in bed, you're likely to go into this dream state. If you sit and meditate and listen to the same soundtrack, you'll go into a meditation state. Different body mudra is picking a different neuroprogram for the same exact brain frequency state of consciousness.
So there's sleep, there's waking, and there's awakening states of consciousness all associated with exactly the same brain frequency. Depending on how you combine the brain frequencies and the sounds with your intention and your body position, you can unlock different programs for that purpose. But, we're ahead of ourselves. So here's Gerald Oster, and he's showing that you can create these beats in a different way, with binaural beats. He’s the one that coined that term. So he's a scientist, and he's using sine waves. And sine waves are produced by electronic oscillators—man-made tone. It has no harmonics. It's a pure tone. Pure tones don't exist in nature—[they’re] a man-made thing. It's the emergency broadcast tone. You know? [Hums] This tone. It's annoying to listen to.
But when you play two of them and slightly out of tune, they create this interference pattern that shows up as a pulse. By tuning them closer or further away from each other, the pulse will speed up or slow down. So you can precisely tune the speed of the pulse, and instead of a drumbeat, you've got a phase-modulated pulse. And that will entrain brainwaves as well. But, then he discovered that if you put headphones on, and you have one tone in one ear and the other tone in the other ear, you cause a synchronicity effect of the electrical activity of the right-left hemispheres across the corpus callosum—you have this unity of right-left hemisphere function.
That is a key thing, because hemisphere synchronicity doesn't happen to often with people. It happens in ecstatic state moments. It happens in the moment of revelry, the moment of personal insight, the moment of a spiritual revelation. It's the big stuff—the moment of psychic phenomena. So it's a desirable state. We want that state, and nobody knows how to get it. But now you can pick the lock of that program and make it happen by listening to binaural beat soundtracks with headphones on.
I thought I was inventing this field, novice little me, and I was doing it from the standpoint of a composer. I'm making these fantasy instrument sounds. I want to initiate this control of the circadian rhythm body clock like I've been doing with the menstrual cycles and seasonal affective disorder, except use sound instead of light. So I was building these binaural beats on tunings between the right-left speakers into the harmonic structure of the instrument sounds that I was making on my keyboard. So I can make this fantasy flute sound, and I'm assembling the harmonics to make it. And then I can manipulate those harmonics and untune them and create these binaural beats within the instrument sound itself and not as a separate sound wave.
Since Gerald Oster did it with sound waves, then the whole industry of brain entrainment soundtracks on the market out there all have used his work, and everybody uses two sine waves, slightly out of tune, that create this pulse. The pulse isn't all that pleasant to listen to, so you cover it over with music or with nature sounds to make it palatable to listen to. And then you have a genre of people who approach that in different ways. You know, if I choose as my foundation binaural beat tone A440, and the other tone is going to be A445, the pulse I hear is five hertz—the difference between those two.
Then, if I'm going to put music on it, it better be in the key of A, otherwise I'm going to have a discordant frequency relationship, and that will cause a stress in the nervous system. Like anything else in human enterprise, there are people out there pumping out these tapes who are entrepreneurs who don't know what they're doing, and they're producing it wrong.
TS: Now, Dr. Jeff, how does all of this get us to the gamma state?
JT: In the gamma—that was discovered by the Institute of Neuroscience here in San Diego in 1986. Gamma's difficult to pick up on EEG unless you've got the expensive equipment with big amplifiers, because the faster the brain speed, the less the amplitude. So gamma frequencies are 40 hertz, and the amplitude is very small, hard to pick up on the scalp, but you can do it.
When they first discovered that, they realized that it was a background hum of 40 hertz going all the time. It's always present, no matter what else is going on. They equated it with cognitive consciousness because it's the only brain frequency that disappears under general anesthesia. All other brain frequencies remain. Only gamma disappears. It's also called the binding frequency. Gamma is used by the brain as a carrier wave, kind of like a wireless radio transmission. [It’s like] the difference between AM and FM radio. FM is frequency modulation—you have a carrier wave, and then you have a modulation wave that's moving through the carrier wave, and that's how gamma works. It's a 40-hertz hum that can be a carrier wave across the cortex for other brain frequencies to travel in, so they can reach other regions of the cortex and communicate. So [it’s the] wireless transmission system in the brain. Radio broadcast hour.
TS: So what would be the advantage of entraining to the gamma wave?
JT: Well, they call it the "binding frequency" because it binds all of my sensory information centers together: my hearing, and smell, and touch, and seeing—all of those are centered in different areas of the cortex, and they all lift their brain frequency information into gamma, as a carrier wave to communicate in a single spot, so that all of my sensory information is synchronized [and] it makes sense to me as a sensory experience. When something drops and hits the floor, I can associate the physical act of [it] hitting the floor, and the sound I hear and what I see as all linking together.
For people who have a problem with gamma production in their brain, they have significant symptoms—symptoms of schizophrenia, symptoms of autism, where my sensory information is fractured and doesn't make sense. I hear something drop, [but] I don't turn my head to look because I don't associate that with a physical event. I don't associate seeing something drop and hit the floor with the sound that comes from that. So it's a big issue with certain kinds of conditions to have gamma missing.
And then in the spiritual realm—just recently, about a year and a half ago, the Dalai Lama did a research project in Wisconsin with 10 of his top monks. [They were] hooked up to sophisticated brain monitors and put in an fMRI machine to see what their brain was doing when they meditate, and across the group, they're all producing massive amplitudes of gamma brain information.
So I purchased my first gamma meditation CD six years before that from the research I was doing in my center. The idea [was] that, once again, there's a waking function for gamma, there's a sleeping function for gamma, and there's an awakening, a meditative function for gamma. Each picks the lock of a different neuroprogram and unlocks a different type of experience.
TS: Now, Dr. Jeff, I feel like you've done a very good job, a very solid job, of introducing us to the idea of brainwave entrainment and these different brain states that can be prominent, and how the recordings created can entrain us in these different brainwave states. You mentioned briefly the idea of primordial sounds, and you said we'd get back to that, and I know that's another component you bring to the recordings you create. Can you briefly describe to me what you mean by "primordial sounds" and how you include them in your recordings?
JT: Yes. What I've referred to as primordial sounds are sounds that would have the same subconscious response in anyone who heard it no matter what age you are, what sex you are, what language you speak, what culture you come from. More objective sounds rather than subjective experience of a sound. So examples of that would be primary primordial sounds, I would consider to be womb sounds because all of us experienced that.
At 16 weeks, the fetus is about twice as long as your index finger. So it’s a small little fetus, 16 weeks, and it's developed in its neural structure all five senses to come online for the first time. But the eyes are not collecting any information because they're in the dark. And the nose and mouth are not collecting any information because you're in fluid, so they're filled with amniotic fluid. But sound physically travels through water five times more efficiently than it does through air. And the only experience we have in the womb is a sound vibrational experience. Vibrational sense is separate from hearing. It's mediated through skin sensors into an area of the brain stem. And the skin sensors are sensitive from 0.3 hertz to 500 hertz. That's vibration sense to the body, carried through separate tracks in this posterior spinal chord. Hearing is a different mechanism.
So that means out largest sense organ is our skin. And that means, for the first nine months of my experience, of everybody's experience, [of] being alive, was a sound-vibrational experience, floating in water. So no wonder every culture on earth, in their religious ceremonies, has a special place for sound. And most of them in their documents, in their sacred literatures, in the beginning was the word, or some formation of that. In the beginning was the vibration. And then, in the third trimester, when the abdominal wall is stretched to the point where light can filter through, then there was light.
That's the reason why sound is the most powerful tool that you can have to reach the deepest experience and the deepest reaches of the unconscious mind that anyone can have. Because it can reach right back into the experience of the womb. What is the experience in the womb anyway? It's just me, surrounded by God, and love, and nurturing, and all of my needs get met. When's the last time you had that experience? [Laughs]
TS: So you combine these sounds of the womb into your recordings? That's an example of the primordial sounds?
JT: Yes. But here's the key: There have been a couple of other tapes by pediatricians taken by very sophisticated electronic stethoscopes and recording the womb environment. The problem is, that my experience as a fetus that's four and a half inches long, and what I heard and what I felt, is very different than what someone who's six feet tall and listening from a stethoscope from the outside, experiences or hears.
And here's why: So I took it on as a task for myself as a physician and an audio engineer to as accurately as possible scientifically reconstruct what the sound environment of the womb would be from the standpoint of the fetus. So you can pick that apart. There would be the swishy watery sounds of the amniotic fluid against my eardrums, kind of like holding your nose and dropping down to the bottom of the swimming pool to meditate. Then there would be the arterial placental pulse, and it would be beating right at my belly button as a physical sensation. Then there would be the respiratory sounds of my mother's diaphragm above my head, above me. And mother's heartbeat, as a distant kind of thudding. And then there would be the gloopy bloopy sounds of the large and small intestines that surround me on all sides.
So we can reproduce all of those; we can make those sounds so they sound just like they [did] when you were there. But there's a key element. And that is that sound waves have size. C-sharp in the third octave has a sound wave that's one foot long, and an octave lower is two feet long, and four feet long, and eight feet long is a huge wave form. Sound has size. So now we've got this fetus that's five inches long, and it's got a small little head, and a very small little ear, and an ear drum that's so small you can't see it except with a microscope.
Then we have a mother's heart, beating out a pulse. The size of the sound waves coming off of her heart in relationship to this microscopic eardrum would make [it] sound different to that eardrum. So if we were to blow the fetus up to six feet tall, and to blow everything up in the world to the same larger size, in relation to it, that mother's heart beat would fill an eight by ten room. And what kind of sound would that heart make? It wouldn't be the lub-dub-lub-dub we hear through a stethoscope. It would be this big, slowed down pulsing sound. And the water sounds of the amniotic fluid would be slowed down, and those would sound remarkably like ocean waves.
[Then there are] respiratory sounds. It's very interesting when you start to slow the sounds down by the appropriate number of octaves; all kinds of interesting sounds from nature begin to spark recognition in your unconscious mind. Part of the reason why we're drawn to the ocean is because the sound of the ocean is very close to the mother's respiratory sound slowed down. So this idea of taking the sounds and reproducing [them] the way I heard [them] in the womb, and then building that into a soundtrack, and not making it dominant, having it hidden kind of underneath everything else, working away at my unconscious mind to pick the lock at an unconscious program I haven't had since I was in the womb, a program of, "I can relax. I'm safe. I'm nurtured. I'm healed. I'm surrounded by love and nurturing"—that's a very powerful thing to use as a therapeutic tool, to put a person into a very safe space, whether it's a healing space or a meditation space, same thing.
So that's one of the primordial sounds. I'd say a secondary class of primordial sounds would be nature sounds, because not everybody hears the same ones. Ocean is [one example of what sounds the same] for most of us, but not a [good] one [for someone living] in the middle of the desert. So most of our experiences with nature have all been positive experiences because they are associated with vacations. You know? Back to nature. Go to rest and recuperate.
So when I was doing this work with Rich Bandler—taking people's voices and recording them, and playing them backwards and forwards and at different speeds so that only the unconscious mind could recognize what was being said—I noticed something very curious, because I was doing this primordial sound project at the same time. Recordings of a person speaking, of sentences—if you started to speed these recordings up, and speed them up by octaves, in other words, you double the speed, and then you double that speed, and you double that speed, that's an octave. Or, you slow it down by half, and slow that down by half.
Human speech patterns speeded up by about three octaves start to sound like birds chirping, and speeded up by about seven or eight octaves start to sound like crickets, and speeded up by 12 to 15 octaves start to sounds like dolphins' chirps. And this was kind of blowing my mind. I'm thinking, "Wait a second. What if I take nature sounds and start to play around with them?" Let's take cricket sounds and slow them down; they sound like birds. And birds slowed down sound like dolphins, and dolphins slowed down sound like people singing. So it's like, wow, no wonder we can't talk with the dolphins. We're talking at the wrong speed. We need to slow their voices down 16 octaves and speed ours up by 16 octaves, and now we can communicate.
So taking womb sounds and nature sounds that are slowed down in a way that only my unconscious mind can be affected by it, and then layering on top of that nature sounds in a speed we can recognize—but never at the right speed, always at least slowed down by some amount to slow you down—led me to another discovery that I copyrighted, that was called, "acoustic pacing."
So since my body clocks time themselves to the world, if the whole world slowed down, then all of my body clocks would slow down with it. So that's the power of psycho-acoustic 3-D recording techniques. If I take these special microphones and I go out into nature and take these nature sound recordings, and then I come back and put headphones on and listen to them, I hear all of the normal three-dimensional cues of the real three-dimensional space. I'll hear water down by my feet, and birds and trees around me, and wind blowing through my head, and things like that. It's pretty amazing.
But my physical body has a visceral, uncontrollable response to this. My body is completely fooled and thinks this is for real and responds accordingly. I do a demo, a 3-D recording demo in one of my classes [that’s] 60 seconds long. A person sits down and turns the microphones on, I have the rest of the people walk in a circle around them talking, jingle some keys around their head in a circle, give them a fake haircut, slam a door behind them, and then put a grocery bag over their head and then remove it.
Then, we turn the microphones off and put the headphones on have them close their eyes and listen to the same recordings from the same position, and their physical body fills in the missing details because it's expecting that it's real. When the door slams, you feel a vibration through your body and an air pressure change, which is not there. When you put the paper bag over a person's head you feel claustrophobic. Some people could smell the bag. It's very interesting phenomena. So if we've got these sounds that are slowed down so that only the unconscious mind can recognize them, we're pushing survival buttons, buttons in the primary functioning systems of the body, that have to respond automatically without even thinking about it.
We can use that as a scientific clinical tool to push an emotional response of healing, peace, serenity, relaxation, safety. Just the kind of things that help a person heal, all built into a soundtrack in a way that you can't hear it.
TS: Dr. Jeff, I'm sorry to cut you off here, but we're coming to a conclusion of our Insights at the Edge program, and I want to thank you so much for giving us some of the background on how you create your very successful series of audio recordings distributed through Sounds True. Dr. Jeff created the series called Brainwave Suite, as well as the programs called Alpha Relaxation System, Delta Sleep System, and the Gamma Meditation System. Dr. Jeff, thank you so much for being with us on Insights at the Edge.
JT: Always my pleasure.
TS: SoundsTrue.com: Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.