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Fireflies, Entrainment and a Better Brain

Many of you may have had the magical experience of watching fireflies. The sun is going down, and the air is warm. It’s a summer eve of calm. First here. Then, over there. A brief flicker of bioluminescent sparks. If you catch them at the beginning of their dance around sunset, the little sparks of light pulse on and off with no pattern or sequence. However, the longer you watch, the more “in sync” these bursts of light will become. Eventually, many of the fireflies will light up at the exact time. So, what does this have to do with your brain? Keep reading.

Entrainment In 1665, Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens was about to discover “entrainment.” Like most discoveries, they are uncovered by accident. (Nah, nothing is an accident) In his laboratory, Huygens set two pendulum clocks next to one another. They were not in sync, but when he came back the next morning, the pendulums were swinging in perfect harmony with one another. Back and forth. How did this happen? It’s called entrainment! Entrainment is the process by which tiny amounts of energy move between two nearby entities that are “out of sync.” The result is a kind of “negative feedback” that works to self-correct the discord until both entities are in sync and aligned. When we’re talking about inorganic entities, like these clocks it is known as mechanical entertainment. With biological entities like the fireflies it is known as biological, or organic, entertainment.

Your Brain So, what can fireflies and clocks teach us about the human brain? For the answer, we need to take a look at your brainwaves. Brain waves, also called neural oscillations, are the electrical pulses that correspond to your thoughts and feelings. Every one of your mental and emotional states has a signature brainwave pattern. If you’re relaxed, you have one pattern. Focused, another. Happy, another. Researchers have been able to identify and duplicate the exact patterns of of these states using sound waves as opposed to electrical currents. These sound waves share the same basic structure found in acoustics. We are all aware of how music can change our mood in an instant. However, by listening to, specifically designed transmissions, the results can have a profound and lasting effect.

Putting the Pieces Together Imagine you’re feeling unfocused. You have an important task to fulfill, such as a presentation, article to write, or class to teach. Maybe you just don’t want to look like a Buffon on your first date? Hypothetically, you should be able to listen to sound wave patterns and switch on your desired mental state. Just like placing two clocks together, your brain synchronizes with the sound wave pattern you are listening to, overriding the old pattern of brain fog and listlessness. Researchers are seeing all the possibilities of brainwave entertainment and it is very exciting. Products are already on the market. You can check out sites like to get a nice overview and a free MP3.

Like the dance of the fireflies and the song of the macrocosm, we still have so much to learn. Nature teaches us harmony, balance, and abundance. Let the music PLAY.


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