Mind machine

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A mind machine with headphones and strobe light goggles.

A mind machine (aka brain machine) uses pulsing rhythmic sound, flashing light, electrical or magnetic fields, or a combination of these, to alter the frequency of the user's brainwaves.[1] Mind machines are said to induce deep states of relaxation,[2] concentration,[3] and in some cases altered states of consciousness,[4] which have been compared to those obtained from meditation and shamanic exploration.[citation needed]

The process applied by these machines is also known as brainwave synchronisation or entrainment.

Mind machines work by creating a flickering ganzfeld. Since a flickering ganzfeld produces different effects from a static one, mind machines can often also produce a static ganzfeld. [5]

Mind machines include flashing light devices, which are similar to the Brion Gysin dreamachine in that both produce a flickering visual field. 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 medical applications. They have been found by a U.S. district court to be Class III medical devices, and consequentially require FDA pre-market approval for all medical uses. One company making medical claims for such devices has been shut down and seen their devices destroyed.[6]

As of September 2013, mind machine devices are readily and legally available throughout the United States from many sources.[4] In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was an intensive investigation into the medical claims made by some manufacturers and sellers.[6] 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.[citation needed]


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)[citation needed].

Sessions will typically aim at directing the average brainwave frequency from a high level to a lower level by ramping down in several sequences[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

Mind machines are often used together with biofeedback or neurofeedback equipment in order to adjust the frequency on the fly.[7]

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[citation needed].

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.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ McConnell, Patrick A; Froeliger, Brett; Garland, Eric L; Ives, Jeffrey C; Sforzo, Gary A (2014). "Auditory driving of the autonomic nervous system: Listening to theta-frequency binaural beats post-exercise increases parasympathetic activation and sympathetic withdrawal.". Frontiers in psychology 5: 1248. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01248. PMID 25452734. Lay summary. binaural-beat associated HRV significantly predicted subsequent reported relaxation. Findings suggest that listening to binaural beats may exert an acute influence on both LF and HF components of HRV and may increase subjective feelings of relaxation. 
  3. ^ Colzato, Lorenza S; Barone, Hayley; Sellaro, Roberta; Hommel, Bernhard (2015). "More attentional focusing through binaural beats: evidence from the global-local task.". Psychological research. November 26. PMID 26612201. Lay summary. While the size of the congruency effect (indicating the failure to suppress task-irrelevant information) was unaffected by the binaural beats, the global-precedence effect (reflecting attentional focusing) was considerably smaller after gamma-frequency binaural beats than after the control condition. Our findings suggest that high-frequency binaural beats bias the individual attentional processing style towards a reduced spotlight of attention. 
  4. ^ a b Syngel, Ryan (November 3, 2014). "Report: Teens Using Digital Drugs to Get High". Wired (Wired). Retrieved July 14, 2010. 
  5. ^ Wackermann, Jirˇı´ (2008). "Ganzfeld-induced hallucinatory experience, its phenomenology and cerebral electrophysiology" (PDF). Cortex 44 (2008) 1364 – 1378. Elsevier. 
  6. ^ a b Farley Dixie (1994). "Unapproved 'Brain Wave' Devices Condemned after Seizure Reports". FDA Consumer. March. Lay summary. The devices were various models of a product called the InnerQuest Brain Wave Synchronizer - headgear (an audio cassette and eyeglasses) that emitted sounds and flashing lights. Sold without prescription and promoted to relieve conditions such as stress, ... 
  7. ^ Mind machines together with online gsr biofeedback. Happy Electronics
  8. ^ Allen, Mark (2005-01-20). "Décor by Timothy Leary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-27.