Four Types of AVS

As may be deduced from the title, I have identified four distinct types of audiovisual stimulation. Each has its own distinct structure and content.

The first type is that which has grown most popular and the bulk of sessions in the New Age genre fall into this category (note that I distinguish between the New Age genre in music and the New Age Movement – I’m perfectly happy with the former but totally oppose the peddling of fantasies and falsehoods by the leaders of the latter). This is the form that may contain entrainment and altered-state stimuli, but is primarily entertainment. This form will have recognizable music and/or complex ambiance and dramatic visuals. The beats intended for entrainment are usually subtle and contain ramps between frequencies. Subtle beats almost never entrain. An entrained brain does not follow ramps – changes between frequencies should be in steps of at least one minute with the difference between the frequency of each step being pretty much insignificant. The most likely altered state achieved with this type of session will be a form of daydreaming – either active (beta if open-eye) or passive (alpha if closed eye). Any experience perceived other than these is almost certainly self-deception. I have written many such sessions knowing that they will only serve a designated purpose if the user also applies themselves to that purpose. I have written many of these sessions using canned music for the background and a few using original “music” (I’m a musician by no means – I use the term to indicate that I have used musical notes and chords, usually  with multiple instruments, in a recognizable pattern)

The second type is that intended to bring about change. These sessions will use hypnotic or neurolinguistic techniques, usually including suggestions or affirmations along with non-intrusive music or music appropriate to the “energy” required (Vanquisher Extreme is an interesting session using martial music to good effect). Visuals are rarely appropriate unless strictly focused on alpha or theta rhythms with minimal “interest” or variation. I do not write these sessions and long ago ceased to listen to them – I do not like to mess with other people’s minds or have others mess with mine while in a suggestible state, largely because I do not place value on that which is currently imposed as valuable.

The third type is the complex altered-state session. In this case the beat is strong enough to be clearly perceptible and any additional sounds are unrecognizable as music, with variations on drones or noise being most useful. The design is intended to fully occupy the consciousness with unintelligible stimulus, leaving the other aspects of mind free. Tedium is also useful. These sessions provide a blank canvas focused on the mind characteristics associated with the beat frequency. They will spend extended periods with little variation and will often have long-cycle repetitive patterns. These are my preferred form and they are what I have mainly written. Most of the commercial sessions of this type that I have written contain elements that I don’t consider useful and have the stimuli more suppressed than I like, but that seems to be what most find palatable. It is better to use a less powerful session often because you like it than to not use one because you find it unpleasant.

The fourth and purest form is the simple beat. There is nothing better than total absence of irrelevant stimulus for achieving altered states of consciousness – whether for exploration of mind or functional purposes such as relaxation, sleep or, eyes open, energy. These sessions contain nothing but a strong beat and matching visual flashing. They will typically be long (30 minutes plus) with no variation. Lead in and lead out frequency ramps may sound nice but they serve no purpose other than chewing up time that could have been better spent at the target frequency. These are the only sessions with a significant likelihood of truly bringing about strict entrainment, meaning they are the only sessions with a strong probability of resulting in therapeutic or functional results. The problem is that they are so boring that few will listen to them and so simple that there is no market for them – there’s any number of pure beat sessions free on the internet and they can be made in two seconds using any of the free audio creation programs, including digital audio workstations such as MuLab Free, wave audio packages such Audacity and specific AVS packages such as Gnaural. I rarely write these sessions to keep – I create them run them on-the-fly from a program as required. An interesting and very powerful variation on this form can be achieved using a standard party strobe accompanied by white noise – I have built an upper-body enclosed unit (the MegaVisor – maybe more about this in a future post) for this purpose. Everyone who has used the MegaVisor has found it too much with the strobe, but have enjoyed the open-eye visuals provided by a Procyon driven LED set projecting onto the peripheral-to-peripheral white screen. Of particular note in this class is the value of using full spectrum white light – the strobe provides this as do incandescent lamps, which I also have in the MegaVisor for strict ganzfeld work. Ganzfeld is effectively the zero frequency version of this class of session.

Nature sounds such as wind, rain, surf or running water are a useful alternative to noise as a neutral accompaniment for any class of session. Nature sounds that contain intrusive elements, such as birds and bees and frogs are less useful, putting the session straight into the type one form.

While I have no bias against any but the second form, it is important to understand what to expect. The more simple the session, the more likely it is to be psychoactive in the strict sense. The more the session engages, the more it is perceived as “something” in itself, the less likely it is to directly produce altered states, although altered-states may emerge simply by virtue of being relaxed and out of the impositions of the ordinary world. As soon as the brain engages with the content, that is to say, has an opinion of the aesthetic, beta will be emphasized, generally defeating the supposed purpose of the session. You will note that any session I have written named for an intended purpose is very simple, while most of my sessions are named quite meaninglessly, or with some relationship to the primary frequency, and are of the complex type. One of my most popular complex sessions, available free off the MindPlace SoundCloud is Vapor Chill.

Whatever tools you choose to use, the most powerful is intent/will. I see little point in trying to make somethings else of that which it is not – self-deception will rarely serve a long-term, healthy purpose. Exposure to reality makes self-deception very difficult. Be careful what you seek in your altered states – you may well find more than your ordinary self can handle and find it very hard to continue to exist and play along in the ordinary world.

Cheers,
Craig

Addendum/Errata:

I have just heard word of serious EEG trials that have shown entrainment tracking a ramp from 18Hz to 12Hz. I am awaiting further details on the nature of the stimulus, the location of EEG electrodes, and whether there have been similar results in other ranges or in the reverse direction – I will let you know anything else that comes to light.

My expectation is that very simple stimulus was used (type four in the above) and I am comfortable with the idea that the brain may follow beta ramps on the basis of the greater degree of awareness in this range. Entrainment, in my experience comes in two flavors – passive, relying on an interesting physiological response to stimuli, and active, where numerous parts of the brain commit to co-operative processing of a single thought. The latter can be achieved by many means even without repetitive stimuli – the high levels of delta observed in meditative states and the intense beta found while engaged in complex problem solving for example. With a simple stimulus the brain may be semi-consciously aware of the changing rate and “think” about it. This should only apply to high alpha and beta, as anything below mid alpha should not permit sufficient engagement for what is effectively a mathematical analysis of the stimulus. I’ll be interested to hear how this hypothesis stacks up.

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Comments

  • leandroemile  On December 6, 2014 at 11:58 am

    nice post i am looking forward to hear more about this the MegaVisor if you have any pics?

    you are well experience and i would like your advice i have seen my brain on the EEG using nexus 4 and i notice that my right side of my brain its way more active them my left .not much beta on my frontal lobs a lots of theta .i have kasina as well do know what is the best avs session for me?so i can balance my brain? i recently bought MWS but i am very junior

    thanks a lot

    • CraigT  On December 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Hi,

      Thanks for your kind words and interest.

      There are a number of sessions with MWS that provide asymmetrical stimulus. The idea is simply to apply more of what you want to the side that seems lacking. Remember that everything swaps sides – if you want more beta on the left, then apply more beta stimulation via the right ear.

      Personally I’m not much interested in trying to make the brain look pretty on an EEG – I’m more interested in subjective experience… use a session actively and see how you feel afterwards. Any beta-type session should elevate beta overall and should be accompanied by a sense of energy and alertness.

      I’ll post some pics of the MegaVisor in a few days.

      Cheers,
      Craig

      • Anonymous  On December 11, 2014 at 10:58 pm

        thanks a lot i will do some experiments 🙂 i love this tech..long life for the blogg chears

  • John  On January 1, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Hi Craig i love your website there is some great info here.My question to you is would you describe the brain evolution system as new age movement im thinking about doing it but it seems to make a lot of promises which is kind of a red flag,also i thought for entrainment to occur the brain needs a steady frequency for at least eight minutes but the brain ev seems to go for multiple frequency approach.It seems to be the most popular programme on the net any thoughts would be great,keep up the good work.

    • CraigT  On January 1, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Hi John,

      Thank you – I always appreciate supportive comments.

      I have been planning to write a post in the next few days where I address your question.

      In short, I consider any “program” designed to achieve a “self improvement” to be highly dubious. I am the author of the last of the Brain Evolution modules. There is no session that, of itself, is anything much – I write sessions that use “best practice” plus some novel techniques. I encourage the use of AVS for personal exploration, however the New Age Movement has promoted a set of “standards” and “ideals” that we apparently should conform to. I do not consider these standards and ideals to be consistent with long-term human wellbeing – they are consistent with creating drones.

      Multiple frequency entrainment has been demonstrated but its usefulness or relevance has not. Almost everything that is promoted as a shortcut to anything via AVS is either a plain lie or a gross exaggeration.

      To repeat, I think AVS is an awesome tool for personal development and exploration. The BE system is fine – but it comes with a heavy marketing and motivational package – used without regard to the pressure it is as good as any for the creative space it provides. If you want what it says it provides beyond this… well.

      I believe everyone should be responsible for their own mind and that conformity, while probably socioeconomically advantageous, is not desirable.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Craig

      • John  On January 1, 2015 at 9:01 pm

        Thanks for the great answer Craig,I appreciate it:-)

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