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Little Evidence ‘Binaural Beats’ Illusion Relaxes Your Brain

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by Onno van der Groen for The Conversation

You may have heard of binaural beats, an auditory illusion that has been touted as having stress-busting properties, and is the subject of countless hours of videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

Proponents claim that listening to binaural beats can boost focus and concentration, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety.

But in a study published this month , researchers concluded that “whether binaural beats have an impact on cognitive performance or other mood measurements remains to be seen”.

It prompted media reports that the claimed mood-altering effects are probably no stronger than for other types of relaxing sounds , and that the touted effects may be just a placebo.

What are binaural beats?

Binaural beats is a perceptual illusion that occurs when two slightly different frequencies (notes) are played into each ear separately, typically using headphones. The resonance between the two frequencies is interpreted as a third sound (termed a “binaural beat”, because it involves two sound inputs, and is heard as a frequency in between the two played frequencies).

It has been claimed that this third frequency prompts brain cells to begin firing at the same frequency – a process called “entrainment”.

The purported relaxing effect is allegedly due to the fact that these frequencies are similar to the frequency of brain waves that occur during deep sleep, as opposed to the higher-frequency brain waves associated with conscious activities.

In other words, listening to binaural beats allegedly promotes brain waves associated with our most relaxed states.

What are these different types of brain waves?

The brain is made of billions of nerve cells (neurons), which transmit information to one another across huge networks of interconnections. It is thought that large groups of neurons can fire together to share information within the brain. The frequency of this synchronous firing can be measured with EEG (electroencephalograpy) electrodes on the head.

Specific frequencies are thought to be involved in specific cognitive tasks. For example, during deep sleep the predominant brain activity happens with frequencies of between 1 and 4 Hertz, so-called delta waves. Delta waves are also associated with learning and motivation. Theta waves (4-7Hz), meanwhile, are linked to memory and emotional regulation.

We might almost think of these various types of brain waves as different languages that the brain uses for different functions.

We also know that brain entrainment is a genuine effect that can occur in response to particular rhythmic frequencies perceived by our senses. A deep-pitched musical tone or a lightbulb flickering a few times a second can indeed cause your brain cells to start firing at the same frequency.

But does this entrainment necessarily have any effect on our mood? As the authors of the new study point out, there is still little convincing evidence for this.

What did the new research actually find?

The authors played binaural or monaural (normal) beats to 16 participants, and recorded their brain activity with EEG.

They found that both binaural and monaural beats can entrain the brain to their particular frequency. But when they asked participants to describe any changes to their mood, they found that neither types of sound had any significant effect.

However, the researchers did find that binaural beats can elicit “cross-frequency connectivity”, in which the brain coordinates its activity across different types of brain waves.

Some cognitive tasks, such as learning and memory formation, require networks within the brain to communicate with one another despite using different types of brain waves. To return to the analogy of different brain wave frequencies being like different languages, your brain sometimes needs to translate messages from one language into another, and vice versa.

If binaural beats can boost this process, it’s possible that it might have a beneficial effect on some types of cognition, perhaps including memory recall. The authors of the new study did not look at that particular question, although a recent analysis of 35 studies demonstrated a modest effect on attention, memory, anxiety and pain perception. None of these were tested in the current study.

There are other ways to influence our brain function, such as by applying electric currents to the brain via electrodes stuck to the head, a technique known as transcranial current stimulation (tCS). There is evidence this can significantly improve cognitive skills in people affected by neurological disease and in healthy individuals.

In the meantime, if you enjoy listening to binaural beats, then by all means keep doing it – it won’t do you any harm. But it may not be doing you quite as much good as you perhaps imagined.

Onno van der Groen is a Research Fellow in the school of medical and health sciences at Edith Cowan University.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Health

County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family

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LOS ANGELES – 300 iPads have been donated to Los Angeles County hospitals to facilitate patient-family communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift is through a partnership with the Annenberg Foundation, Brilliant Corners, and the Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships.

“The engagement of loved ones during hospitalization has been shown to improve clinical outcomes,” said DHS Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly. “Clinical staff identified a role for virtual visiting through technology in order to facilitate this family involvement. The generous donations by the Annenberg Foundation and MobileDemand will help support this critical element of our patients’ care.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visitation by family and loved ones is limited at facilities in order to prevent exposure and the spread of disease. While there are some exceptions, such as the birth of a child or death of a patient, visitation is not permitted for the vast majority of patients and not allowed at all for COVID-19 patients. 

The donation provides 300 iPads to ensure patients and their families are able to connect, despite restrictions in access to the hospital. A second donation, by MobileDemand, provides rugged, protective healthcare iPad cases to protect against damage and loss. The rugged case also has an adjustable easel attached, providing effortless viewing for patients who are too weak to hold a tablet. Additionally, it frees health care staff from having to hold the device for patients.

“This is a wonderful example of how philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, government, and businesses can collaborate and meet an immediate need in our community,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “Being able to offer an opportunity for comfort and connection to those suffering and to alleviate some of the stress from our frontline caregivers is of utmost importance.”

While social distancing has been successful in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 surge in Los Angeles County, it is anticipated that it will continue for several months. With this gift, physicians and nurses will be able to place an iPad in the room of COVID and other critically-ill patients for the duration of the admission and reduce potential exposure and use of personal protective equipment going in and out of the room. Having a stationary iPad helps relieve medical staff who would otherwise have to hold the phone for a patient or search for the person’s personal phone. It also will allow patients who do not have a personal mobile device to communicate and “visit” with their family.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. Through its integrated system of 26 health centers and four hospitals – LAC+USC Medical Center, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center – and expanded network of community partner clinics, DHS annually provides direct care for 600,000 unique patients, employs over 22,000 staff, and has an annual budget of over $6 billion.

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Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on essential workers such as first responders and healthcare workers who are on the frontlines in the effort to care for coronavirus patients so the City of West Hollywood is setting out to recognize them in a special way on May 6.

National Nurses Day is a day of recognition to celebrate and honor the contributions that nurses have made and continue to make in our communities and throughout the nation. National Nurses Day is celebrated annually on May 6, which marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, a week-long celebration to raise awareness of the value of nursing and educate the public on the role nurses play in meeting the healthcare needs of Americans. National Nurses Week concludes on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, or as she was more commonly known, “The Lady of the Lamp” and founder of modern nursing.

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is coordinating two motorcades to honor healthcare workers on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, which is nationally recognized as National Nurses Day. The processions will begin at 9:45 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m. on Santa Monica Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard and the motorcades will head west and then travel southbound on N. San Vicente Boulevard passing multiple medical center locations in West Hollywood en route to a destination outside the emergency room entrance of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Gracie Allen Drive. First responders will briefly stop, exit their vehicles and applaud healthcare workers while wearing face coverings and practicing appropriate social distancing.

“Our nurses and healthcare workers are nothing short of heroes,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey P. Horvath. “The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us just how critical their work is to our everyday health and safety. This National Nurses Day means so much more to all of us — the City of West Hollywood and our LA County Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station and LA County Fire Stations; the City of Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Police and Fire; the City of Los Angeles and LAPD and LAFD; the California Highway Patrol, and more — and we will honor these heroes in a special way for the care that they provide, which often goes unseen and unrecognized, in carrying us through this crisis.”

“As the worldwide response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, the critical importance of nurses in our society has been brought sharply into focus,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember John Heilman. “More often than not, when a coronavirus patient ends up in a hospital, it is the nurses at the frontlines who are responsible for their care and treatment, putting themselves at risk in the process. We can’t say ‘thank you’ strongly enough.”

The City of West Hollywood encourages residents and community members to participate during this day of celebration while still adhering to LA County Safer At Home Orders and social distancing requirements. Suggested forms of participation include amplifying posts on social media channels, making yard or window signs and banners, participating in a coordinated daily applause or shout out for nurses and healthcare workers, and donating to organizations that are addressing the emerging needs of nurses and healthcare workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) health pandemic.

According to the American Nursing Association, nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than four million registered nurses in the United States. Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce and are the primary providers of hospital patient care, delivering most of the nation’s long-term care. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce. This year, with the onset of coronavirus, nurses have stepped up and shown the incredible impact they have on our healthcare system. It is more important than ever that we recognize National Nurses Day and celebrate the significance of nurses every day.

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Health

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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