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A mind machine (aka brain machine, in some countries called a psychowalkman) uses pulsing rhythmic sound and/or flashing light to alter the frequency of the user's brainwaves. Mind machines are said to induce deep states of relaxation, concentration, and in some cases altered states of consciousness, which have been compared to those obtained from meditation and shamanic exploration.
The process applied by these machines is also known as brainwave synchronisation or entrainment.
A mind machine is similar to a dreamachine in that both produce a flickering ganzfeld. The difference is that a dreamachine can be used by several people at once, but generally has fewer technical features than a mind machine.
In the United States, these devices are not FDA-approved for sale. They have been found by a U.S. district court to be Class III medical devices, and consequentially require FDA pre-market approval. None of these devices have obtained this pre-market approval. Several companies selling these devices have been shut down and seen their devices destroyed.
As of September 2013, Light and Sound devices are readily and legally available throughout the United States from many sources. In the late 1980s and early 1990's there was an intensive investigation into the medical claims made by some manufacturers and sellers. The FDA concluded that Light and Sound Machines were not medical devices and did not warrant regulation. Sellers and manufacturers were given guidelines for how they could advertise these devices,and were required to include a disclaimer and cautionary document with each machine.
Mind machines typically consist of a control unit, a pair of headphones and/or strobe light goggles. The unit controls the sessions and drives the LEDs in the goggles. Professionally, they are usually referred to as Auditory Visual Stimulation Devices (AVS devices).
Sessions will typically aim at directing the average brainwave frequency from a high level to a lower level by ramping down in several sequences. Target frequencies typically correspond to delta (1-3 hertz), theta (4–7 Hz), alpha (8–12 Hz) or beta brain waves (13–40 Hz), and can be adjusted by the user based on the desired effects.
There have been a number of claims regarding binaural beats, among them that they may help people memorize and learn, stop smoking, tackle erectile dysfunction and improve athletic performance.
Scientific research into binaural beats is very limited. No conclusive studies have been released to support the claims listed above.
Modern mind machines can connect to the Internet to update the software and download new sessions. When sessions are used in conjunction with meditation, neurofeedback, etc. the effect can be amplified.
Some clinical research has been done on the use of auditory and visual stimulation to improve cognitive abilities in learning-disabled children (research).
Rapidly flashing lights may be dangerous for people with photosensitive epilepsy or other nervous disorders. It is thought that one out of 10,000 adults will experience a seizure while viewing such a device; about twice as many children will have a similar ill effect.
- Brainwave synchronization
- Binaural beats
- Human enhancement
- Neural oscillations
- Evoked potential
- Event-related potential
- Induced activity
- Ongoing brain activity
- Psychedelic drug
- The Use of Auditory and Visual Stimulation for the Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children. Micheletti, Larry S. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
- Wackermann, Jirˇı´ (2008). "Ganzfeld-induced hallucinatory experience, its phenomenology and cerebral electrophysiology". Cortex 44 (2008) 1364 – 1378. Elsevier.
- Farley, Dixie. "Unapproved 'brain wave' devices condemned after seizure reports." FDA Consumer Mar. 1994: Vol. 28 No. 2 p. 41.
- Mind machines together with online gsr biofeedback. Happy Electronics
- Allen, Mark (2005-01-20). "Décor by Timothy Leary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-27.