The Daily App: AmbiScience -- Harness Your Brainpower
Your brain: the final frontier.
Neuroscience is still unraveling the mind's many mysteries on memory, time and perception, but if you're looking to leverage the latest research in a practical way to boost your emotional health and productivity -- and you're an adventurous sort who's up for anything -- the AmbiScience app could work for you.
Brainwave entrainment... know what it is? Is it like time travel? ESP? Or like dog obedience school, but for your brain?
It sounds far out, but the principle is simple: states of mind, like relaxation, stimulation and sleep, are characterized by certain brain wave patterns. Entrainment is simply a set of practices that attempt to "synchronize" your brain's electrochemical "pulse" with frequencies and patterns corresponding to the intended brain state.
The most common way to do this is through sound. Via often subsonic audio signals like binaural and monaural beats or isochronic tones, these signals gradually shift brainwaves into states such as creativity, relaxation or sleep. These subtle audio cues can be masked behind music or soundscapes, but they gradually guide the brain into certain electromagnetic rhythms that can optimize your productivity, stimulate creativity or even lull you into sleep.
Does it work? Entrainment enthusiasts claim this kind of synchronization has been around since shamans danced around fires to the sounds of drumbeats that eased minds into a dreamlike yet conscious states. Whatever the debate around entrainment (and there's a significant body of work centering around the idea within neuroscience research), a whole slew of software and apps exist to promote the practice. There's no need for a shaman and a dance around fire anymore: now you can have your very own entrainment experience at your fingertips via smartphone, and see what the fuss is all about for yourself.
What's the App?
The AmbiScience app from Tesla Audio Sciences, currently available for free for iOS from its usual $2 price, combines nature sounds and ambient electronic soundscapes with audio entrainment frequencies to attune your brains to states of mind like sleep, relaxation, focus and meditation. It promises a "sonic journey" to improve your mental states and concentration.
There's a wide variety of sounds to choose from: nature sounds range from anything from rain to ocean to birds and chimes, and the app includes over 30 ambient tracks with names like "Desert Sunrise" or "Buddhist Rain." You can mix these sounds with a series of entrainment programs, which promise everything from power naps to focus to even a "caffeine boost" to give you energy and get you going. The beats and tones of the entrainment programs are unnoticeable underneath the soundscapes, so the effect is like listening to a New Age record store, but with an added, nearly hidden kick.
You'll Want It If...
You're a productivity geek with a hippie twist: you seek out novel, adventurous ways to boost your mental state, and are open-minded enough to try anything, especially if it's free, cheap and not going to permanently harm your health. Whether or not you're skeptical of entrainment, at the very least AmbiScience offers a nice tool for meditation or focus -- the soundscapes are pleasant, and the ability to set alarms and duration on them make them pleasant meditation tools. The electronica sequences are hit or miss, depending on your musical tastes: if your taste runs more towards Daft Punk, you'll find them rather unsophisticated, but if you have an appreciation of video-game music and 80s sci-fi movie soundtracks, you'll get a kick out of tracks like "A Baby Android is Born."
As an added plus, the app is able to run in the background while operating other non-sound apps on your iOS device, which makes it a nice accompaniment to whatever task you're doing.
There's a bit of geek aesthetic to the app's look-and-feel, and while it's simple to navigate around enough, it's slightly jarring when first using the app -- both to determine how its features and functions operated, and whether downloading this app was really a silly idea or not. It takes a bit of poking around to unearth all the features, but after a few tries, it's easy to use. My only real quibble is that the app often stops when you swipe-to-unlock a device after it goes into sleep mode, interrupting the sound sequences.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
The question on this kind of app is: Does it work? The app is best approached with a kind of willingness to be your own experiment or guinea pig. For my part, I found it a nice set of sounds and music tracks, and well, I did manage to write this article with the help of the focus and "caffeine boost" sequences quite nicely. And the use of the deep sleep sequences did help me fall asleep more quickly than usual, which is a boon for this chronic insomniac. Perhaps it was the placebo effect, or maybe those binaural beats and isochronic tones really did help my brain into the right states. Does it really matter, especially when the result is ultimately subjective? At any rate, the app is currently a free special, so why not see for yourself? ♦
Categories: Productivity | The Daily App