Psychoacoustics & the Frequency-Following Response in Hypnosis

Psychoacoustics & the Frequency-Following Response in Hypnosisfeatured

By Andrew Wilding



The brain states: Delta 1-3Hz; Theta 4-8Hz; Alpha 9-14Hz; Beta 15-30Hz

The 8Hz frequency is your brain’s a natural dream state and will encourage relaxation and creativity. 30-40Hz would be uncomfortable because for your brain, above 30Hz is an anxiety state


Psychoacoustics is a branch of neurology in which brain scientists found that certain sound frequencies have an effect on our brain activity.


When we hear a sound frequency that is within the brain’s frequency range, between 1 and 40Hz, we can quite easily go into the brain state that corresponds with that frequency.


The neuroscience term is the “Frequency Following Response” or FFR – your brain follows the frequency that you hear. This possibly explains why music and rhythm are so powerful emotionally and psychologically.

FFR was discovered during experimentation with binaural beats in 1839. Neuro-scientist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove observed the brain waves of his test subjects consistently synchronising with a “binaural beat”, created by the interference pattern of two slightly miss-tuned notes, one played to each ear using headphones. By changing the frequencies (the notes) of the two tones applied separately with stereo headphones, Dove observed that the brain patterns of his subjects were responding by “following” the changes in frequency.

Until recently, the discovery of FFR was never given due credit or exploration, no doubt because it presented an opposition to mainstream medicine. A later revival in 1973 “Auditory Beats In The Brain” reached the pages of Scientific American, but didn’t stand a chance against the pharmaceutical industry. The opposition is in theory: if we can control the frequencies in our body, we can target specific frequencies that are conducive to healing, relaxation or sleep, and very easily and naturally overcome problems like anxiety, insomnia, and depression, for which our only official medical answer is some kind of synthetic pill.

In practice, the use of sound to activate the frequency-following response is as wide spread as it is highly effective. I just searched “audio hypnosis” and got 4.5 million results. I’m sure some of them are better than others, and we should be fair to Heinrich Dove and only regard the best of these as examples, and even if we do that, we would still have thousands of widely used “audio hypnosis” tracks that effectively use the frequency-following response to achieve sleep, relaxation, meditation, visualisation of goals, etc. A recent example is the Apple/Google joint venture “Digipil”, which, although slamming binaural beats as a “gimmick”, bases it’s science on the work of the same Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.

Today the frequency-following response can be created using a variety of methods:

  • Isochronic tones – where the frequency is heard
  • Binaural Beats – where the frequency is perceived
  • Electro magnetic stimulation – where the frequency is felt

Isochronic Tones or Beats
The most obvious activation of the frequency-following response is an audible pulse in the volume of a music track. Using a phaser, one can easily create such a sound effect, setting the pulse to the required frequency, example 10 Hz. “Isochronic” literally means one rhythm. We have thousands of years of natural isochronic frequency-following response in the percussion of our music, and in nature – the “hypnotic” chirping of insects and frogs. In modern electronic dance music, and especially trance music, you will hear the isochronic beat of the high-hat or shakers at around 9 Hz – hence the genre name “trance”.

Binaural Beats
The “beat” is created by hearing a slightly different note in each ear. This is not an audible interference pattern as you would hear between two speakers playing slightly different notes – you would indeed here a beat created by the interference of the two sound waves in the vibrating air particles – but (I hope) there are no air particles between your ears. The interference pattern that makes a binaural beat is a perception created in the brain, and is thus slightly illusive – it can take a few minutes to notice. The two notes determine the frequency of the binaural beat, by the difference in Hz between them. Example 205 Hz in the left ear and 215 Hz in the right ear will create a binaural beat in the brain of 10 Hz.

Electro Magnetic Stimulation
The most recent development in FFR comes from the Laurentian University’s Neuroscience Department, in the form of a head apparatus consisting of highly sensitive electromagnets, controlled by computer software. The apparatus, called the Koren Helmet, after the senior technician for the research group, is positioned on the head to activate the temporal lobes at various frequencies. The software program produces consistent results of an unpleasant, stressful experience at first, followed by a pleasant, blissful experience, which some found to be quite spiritual. For this reason, the apparatus received a somewhat controversial label: “The God Helmet”.

Frequency-Following Response Koren Helmet

The “Koren Helmet” activates the FFR via electro magnetic stimulation controlled by a computer program

The Koren Helmet is a dramatic example, demonstrating the efficacy of the frequency-following response, but the experience depends entirely on the programming that we use. Whether you shell out $639 on the hi tech version, or you go sit outside and listen to the crickets, the question is: what program are you using?

In my hypnotherapy sessions I use the 8Hz frequency (the same brain state as dreaming) because that makes it easier to relax more deeply. Depth is important because the deeper and more relaxed you are, the less you are effected by your critical thinking, and it’s your own critical thinking that holds you back from believing that you can have what you want, or you can be who you want to be.

Andy Wilding Hypnotherapy what is a personal affirmation

When I began using isochronic pulses with binaural beats in my hypnotherapy sessions, I observed a much deeper level of relaxation and a more agreeable reaction to positive suggestions, than I observed without using sound. The psychoacoustic aspect of my hypnotherapy practice is created with extreme care. In order to find the most beneficial, harmonious, and healing frequencies to activate the FFR, I turned to the Tibetan Chakra system, in which each of our 7 Chakras is activated and balanced by an exact frequency (a musical note). Tibetan monks produce singing bowls for each of the 7 Chakras. Each singing bowl produces a note, tuned by ear, that activates a specific Chakra. Authentic Tibetan Chakra singing bowls are all in tune with each other – which means that the notes of each Chakra are consistent.

Chakra Tones

It’s well known that every substance in the universe has a resonant frequency – the exact frequency that causes the substance to vibrate. If you sing the exact note of a guitar string, the string will vibrate, and this is called sympathetic resonance. Many instruments have “sympathetic strings”, such as the Indian sitar, which build up their sound as the instrument is played. Producing the exact note of one of your Chakras causes sympathetic resonance to occur in your body and in that Chakra, which connects to a set of emotions and belief systems – all the different angles of the challenge that you are working on. Allowing your brain to go into the frequency-following response and working through the Chakras one by one, is a complete psycho-emotional balancing process. The sound is the blueprint for each Chakra to come back into balance, and as that occurs, you can let go of the beliefs that were holding you back.

I use the Frequency-Following Response to take you through the hypnotic rehearsal of your solution. Every session, your whole Chakra system aligns with the change that you are making in your life, and with repetition, your brain forms the neural network required for your positive change to become a natural habit.

During the session we will record your neurolinguistic program, and I will use that with the 8 Hz frequency as a backing, to produce your own personal hypnosis soundtrack, and email it to you. Then it’s really easy, it’s like learning from a language tape, you practice it for that week, next week there may be some changes, it’s a very organic way of working, using psychoacoustics to deepen your hypnosis so that you can accept your own positive thoughts subconsciously, and practice building the habit of thinking how you want to think without the interference of your critical thinking.

If you do that, the principle of neuroplasticity applies, which is that whenever we do something with repetition, those neural pathways in the brain grow thicker and stronger, and the brain forms that thing into a habit.

Hypnotherapy isn’t magic, its just science that we didn’t understand before.

Sessions are available on-line and in Cape Town.

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About the author

Andrew Wilding

Andrew Wilding is a Counseling Hypnotherapist (HMI C.Ht) specialising in creative Visualization and psychoacoustics. He is also a radio presenter on Fine Music Radio, committee member of the Friends of Orchestral Music Cape Town, and a motivational speaker.