Light and sound stimulation in pain management

НазваниеLight and sound stimulation in pain management
Дата конвертации29.10.2012
Размер9.62 Kb.

Nathan Fu

L05 Koblasz

ER Chair



Pain management is a difficult task to achieve; pain and relief of pain are subjective, and therefore, a universal solution is hardly possible. As a result, there are a number of methods that various people claim are effective. Biofeedback, or more particularly, the use of light and sound devices, as a pain management technique is especially appealing because of the idea of simply manipulating light and sound to alter the perception of pain. This paper will review the idea of light and sound devices (L/S devices) and discuss the contemporary, commercially available products.

Commercial light and sound devices

A handful of L/S machines are available for personal use. Companies like Mind Alive Inc., NovaPro, Proteus, and MindSpa sell these devices for hundreds of dollars. The most expensive of these devices is the DAVID PAL from Mind Alive Inc., for at least $260. A special version with Cranio-Electro Stimulation is available at a premium $500. The least costly is Proteus’s Light and Sound Machine for $160. Each product advertises a respective, unique feature, such as ‘specially designed glasses’, ‘totally programmable’, or ‘lasting results’. However, all these devices principally work by flashing lights and/or playing sounds.


L/S devices work by utilizing audio-visual stimulation (AVS) to “entrain” electroencephalographic (EEG) activity at specific frequencies [1]. Brain waves can generally be separated into four categories, depending on the frequency of the brain wave. These are [2]:

  • Beta (13 Hz to about 40 Hz) – norm frequency at which the brain operates.

  • Alpha (8 Hz to 12 Hz) – the relaxed and concentration frequencies.

  • Theta (5 Hz to 7 Hz) – frequencies of deep relaxation and production of hypnotic imagery.

  • Delta (0.5 Hz to 4 Hz) – the frequencies usually associated with sleep or states of unconsciousness.

The brain can be influenced to adjust its frequency corresponding to external stimuli, in this case, light and sound [3].


The audio portion of AVS consists of the binaural beat idea. Given two tones at different frequencies in different ears, the difference in frequencies will create a third tone, called the beat, to be heard. This is due to an auditory brainstem response [4]. Beats at a chosen frequency can increase brain activity in that specific frequency.


The visual aspect of AVS is called photic stimulation. Light is flashed at the desired frequency to achieve an influence over the brain activity. A consequence of visual stimulation not present in auditory stimulation is the chance of triggering epileptic seizures and “altered states of consciousness”, in which the subject will see complex images if the frequency of flashing is too high [5].


Implementation of an L/S device can be accomplished in multiple ways. A basic method is to use an array of 555 timers to generate pulses at desired frequencies. Altering the frequencies of the pulses can be achieved by tuning potentiometers. These pulses use power from a battery to drive the flashing of LEDs, which are the most reliable light source for this application, and the binaural beats [6]. A more involved, but flexible, method is to use a microcontroller to flash LEDs and play sounds in a specific pattern [7]. The microcontroller can then be interfaced with a computer to be programmed however the user would like. However, this requires that the user have some knowledge of microcontroller programming.

  1. J. A. Frederick. (1999). Effects of 18.5 Hz Auditory and Visual Stimulation of EEG Amplitude at the Vertex. Journal of Neurotherapy [Online]. 3(4), 23-27. Available:

  2. B. Harrah-Conforth, “Alpha and Theta Response to the Mind’s Eye Plus,” unpublished.

  3. T. Rubins, “Brain wave synchronizer,” U.S. Patent 5 409 445, April 25, 1995.

  4. D. S. Foster. (1990). EEG and subjective correlates of alpha frequency binaural beats stimulation combined with alpha biofeedback. Hemi-Sync Journal [Online]. 8(2).

  5. T. Budzynski, “The Clinical Guide to Sound and Light,” unpublished.

  6. R. Iannini. “Mind-sync Generator,” in MORE Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006, pp. 228-231.

  7. M. Altman. (2007, Oct. 22). Build Your Sound and Light Machine. Make [Online]. Pg. 92. Available:

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