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Mind Machines FAQM

From: (Alexander Chislenko)
Subject: Mind Machines FAQM
Date: 27 Jul 1994 04:28:37 GMT

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Here's a copy of the frequently asked questions file. If you need to contact
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Author:  "J. Brad Hicks" 
Release: MM FAQ version 0.1
~Date:    Mon, 18 Nov 1991 21:44:00 -0500

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  This is version 0.1 of the FAQ for MIND-L, compiled by J.
Brad Hicks (  The author is not responsible.  (grin)
Send clarifications, corrections, and suggested additions to the author.
Send requests for additional info to MIND-L@ASYLUM.SF.CA.US.  Send flames to


Mind Machine Digest "Frequently Asked Questions"

Q:  What do you all mean by "mind machines?"

A:  The phrase "mind machines" covers a whole range of technologies that
work directly or indirectly on your mind.  In broad categories, this
includes HemiSynch tapes, light and sound mind machines, TENS and CES
electrical stimulation hardware, biocircuits, lucid dreaming machinery,
consciousness alteration software, and of course the old classic sensory
deprivation tanks.

Q:  What is a HemiSynch tape?

A:  HemiSynch
 and similar tapes are cassette tapes, meant to be played
over headphones, that play different things into each ear, sometimes to
create a binaural beat frequency.  Some use different sythesized
frequencies, and the new Paraliminal tapes use an odd technique of telling
two different stories at the same time, one into each ear, to work directly
onto your subconscious by confusing your conscious mind.  And of course,
there are the old classic hypnotic suggestion tapes and subliminal
programming tapes.

Q:  What is a binaural beat frequency?

A:  The makers of these tapes want to play sounds into your head that are
exactly at the frequencies they want to entrain you to.  The catch is,
there isn't a human being alive or dead who can hear a 10 hertz "pitch"
as one continuous sound.  So they cheat: they play (for example) 450 Hz
into one ear and 460 Hz into the other; theoretically this sets up a
"beat frequency" of 10 Hz (460 - 450 = 10).

Q:  What is a light and sound mind machine?

A:  These consist of a pair of opaque goggles with built-in flashing
lights, and normally a pair of headphones with synchronized beeping sounds.
Studies have shown that if the flashing lights and beeping sounds start at
something close to your current "dominant frequency" and then slowly change
the "beat frequency" it "entrains" your brain to the desired frequency.  So
for example, if you entrain to alpha frequencies, you experience some of
the same benefits as experienced meditators. Additionally, almost all users
report some kind of hallucinations from the flashing lights; mostly colored
moire patterns, but some people see detailed hallucinatory scenes.  And, of
course, many of the same effects as hemisynch can be achieved by the sound
synthesizers in a light and sound mind machine.  Alternatively, most of the
better light and sound mind machines include sound inputs so you can mix
the headphone synthesizers with your choice of music, environmental, or
HemiSynch-like tapes or compact disks.

Q:  What are these "brain wave frequencies" you've mentioned?

A:  While only the most science-ignorant fool thinks that the entire brain
pulses in time to one frequency, EEGs show that at any given time, your
brain produces distinct waveforms in four frequency groupings, called beta
waves (14 to 30 Hz, pronounced hertz, meaning cycles per second), alpha
waves (8 to 13 Hz), theta waves (4 to 7 Hz), and delta waves (1 to 3 Hz).
When we say that you are "in beta state" (which you normally are), what
we're saying is that that's the dominant set of frequencies, the ones with
the highest amplitudes. Beta is associated with alertness, with the highest
frequencies in that range often described as "fight/flight" mode. Alpha
frequencies have long been associated with meditation and relaxation. Theta
waves are considered by some to be associated with a dreamy, creative
states.  Delta waves are generally strongest when you're asleep.

Q:  What is the Ganzfield Effect?

A:  The ganzfield effect is a sort of mini-isolation chamber.  It turns out
that the mind reacts better to a blank but steadily-lit field for sensory
deprivation than it does to darkness.  Many light and sound mind machines
have a setting to produce the ganzfield effect, and at least one, the
Tranquilite, is just for the ganzfield effect.  You can get some of the
effects of this, though, with the cheapest mind-altering technology: cut a
ping-pong ball in half, paint both halves orange or light blue, and tape
them over your eyes, then sit where you can look into a bright light.

Q:  What is the Schumann resonance?

A:  7.83 Hz.  That's the average "resonance" frequency of the Earth's
magnetic field, and some people think that by entraining your brain to 7.83
Hz, you can be more "in tune with the planet."  Whether or not that's true,
it makes sense that it would be a perfectly good alpha meditation
frequency, wouldn't it?  The idea started with TENS (see below) hardware,
but many light and sound mind machines have Schumann resonance entrainment

Q:  What is lucid dreaming, and how do you do it with a machine?

A:  A lucid dream is one in which you know that you are dreaming, and
therefore have full control over what happens to you in the dream, even
though you're still asleep.  People who are really "into" lucid dreaming
say that it puts your sleeping hours to work to enhance your creativity and
that it helps you get a feeling of control over your waking life to have
your sleeping life under control.  The Lucidity Institute pushes a roughly
thousand-dollar piece of hardware that looks like a slightly oversized set
of light and sound mind machine goggles and monitors you for REM state.
When it detects the onset of REM, it flashes a dim LED onto your eyelids.
The idea is that you'll see the light in front of you in your dream, and
remember that that's your cue that you're dreaming.

Q:  What do electrical stimulation mind machines do?

A:  Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation (TENS) is sort of like
"electrical accupuncture."  Small voltages are run across, for example, an
aching joint, to stimulate healing and endorphin release.  Cranial
Electro-Stimulation (CES) is the next major step: transmitting even smaller
voltages directly across your brain (via electrodes that clip onto your ear
lobes), to stimulate endorphin release and produce the same kind of
brain-wave entrainment as a light and sound mind machine.

Q:  What is a biocircuit?

A:  A biocircuit is made up of copper plates connected via copper wire to
copper plated handles.  You arrange them in specially designed "circuits"
and then lie down on them, holding onto the handles, and it somehow
"balances" your body's electrical fields.  Sounds silly to some of us, but
there were some double-blind studies which suggest that they may be able to
produce mind-altering effects.  They are also available in silver and in
silk, and some people claim different effects depending on the materials.

Q:  What do you mean by consciousness alteration software?

A:  It varies.  Some people stretch this category far enough to include
thinking aids like "idea processors" such as Idea Generator Plus,
Brainstormer, and The Thinking Machine, which offer up thinking strategies
and help you organize your brainstorming sessions, and non-linear
"hypertext" writing systems like HyperTies and Guide.  Then there's "shrink
in a box" software like the old classic Eliza, its modern, hipper
incarnation Racter, PC Guru, and Timothy Leary's (now mostly remaindered)
Mind Mirror.  But much closer to the idea of consciousness alteration
software is a little gem for both PCs and Macintoshes called Synchronicity,
which uses vaguely oriental art and digitized nature sounds to aid you in
meditation upon computer-generated I Ching oracles.

Q:  What are sensory deprivation tanks?

A:  Mostly the same old classic "flotation tanks" pioneered by Dr. Lilly
and publicized in the book and movie {Altered States}.  A flotation tank is
a light-sealed tank of body-temperature water, mixed with enough Epsom
salts to guarantee that you float in it.  After a prolonged period of
sensory deprivation, the "floater" experiences various states of
consciousness alteration.

Q:  You keep saying "consciousness alteration."  Does this have anything to
do with drugs?

A:  Not in the sense that you mean it, probably.  Some (I stress that,
SOME) researchers claim that they've seen a synergistic effect from mixing
light and sound mind machines with some of the experimental nootropics such
as Piracetam.

Q:  Are all of these things legal?

A:  HemiSynch, hypnotic, subliminal and so forth cassette tapes are
entirely legal, though the FDA is considering restricting the advertising
claims that they can make.  Light and sound machines are unregulated by the
FDA due to the fact that a crude form of this kind of hardware pre-existed
the FDA, and is therefore "grandfathered." Biocircuits are currently
unregulated.  TENS and CES are considered medical devices, and available
only by prescription.  And flotation tanks are perfectly legal, albeit

Q:  Well, if the FDA can't regulate it, is it safe?

A:  Opinions on the list are sharply divided about this.  Some of the
oldest "mind spas" have confirmed that approximately three out of every ten
thousand sessions with a light and sound mind machine have produced mild
epileptic seizures ... but that almost all of those were in known
epileptics, the kind of people to whom strobe lights are dangerous, too,
and the others turned out to be in undiagnosed epileptics.  Some list users
believe that these machines may somehow "cause" epilepsy in previously
normal people or possibly worsen epilepsy for undiagnosed epileptics, but
these people have NO research or other evidence on their side.

It was once thought that people with migraine headaches should avoid light
and sound mind machines, on the theory that bright lights can trigger
migraine attacks.  In fact, the one real study so far ended up showing that
light and sound mind machines not only don't cause or trigger migraines,
but reduce or eliminate the pain of migraine attacks in 72% or more of
migraine sufferers.  (cf {The Futurist}, July-August 1991, p. 5)

Makers of TENS and CES electro-stimulation hardware recommend against using
their devices if you have a pacemaker or other built-in electronics, for
the fairly obvious reason that the current might interfere with your
existing circuitry.  Also, please remember that TENS and CES hardware are
supposed to be available in America only by prescription to persons under a
doctor's supervision.

Q:  How much will all of this stuff cost me?

A:  The cassette tapes and CDs are competitive with music tapes and CDs,
mostly, with prices ranging from around $10 to $40 for most of them, with
some multi-tape sets running up around $100 or so.  There are light and
sound machines available for under $150, but according to our reviewers,
they're trash.  The cheapest light and sound machine to get decent reviews
is the Shaman, from AlphaLabs, at $180, and better machines run from $300
to $700. Your basic copper biocircuit starts at $50.  TENS and CES hardware
runs from roughly $400 to $1000.  And even a cheap flotation tank will set
you back $4000, not counting all the Epsom salts you have to keep loading
into it.

On the other hand, you may be able to find alternatives to having to buy
some of this.  Michael Hutchison, whose 1981 tome {MegaBrain} kicked off
the current enthusiasm for such hardware, gives a travelling $150 seminar
in which participants get to experiment with various kinds of consciousness
hardware, and some cities have permanent "mind spas" where you can go in
and rent time on the hardware.

Q:  Are circuit diagrams available in case I want to build one of my own?

A:  Several list-users have promised to design simple hardware and upload
the plans, but so far none of them have come through.  The list archives do
include an Amiga BASIC program to produce HemiSynch-like tones on the
Amiga's audio ports.  Also, blueprints are available for a few devices,
such as the TENS, for various prices from a company called  at
(send for price list). Q: If I build one of my own, can I sell it? A: Lots of people are. You can find the complete list of relevant American patents in the MIND-L archive at ASYLUM.SF.CA.US. The most important of these is Denis Gorges' patent on the Synchro Energizer; Gorges insists that every other machine in the field infringes on his patent, and has been threatening to sue for quite some time now. So far as we can tell, he hasn't done so yet. Q: Where can I read more? A: The first and foremost is Michael Hutchison's {MegaBrain} (Ballantine: 1986), a $4.95 paperback which covers a wide range of hardware. It's getting a little long in the tooth, but supposedly we should soon see a 1991 update. A little more skeptical and a lot more up-to-date is Judith Hooper & Dick Teresi's {Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?} (Simon & Schuster, 1990), for $16.95 in trade paperback. Hutchison also publishes (irregularly) a newsletter called {The MegaBrain Report}, for $36 per year >from the address at the end of this file. Q: So what is a ? NAME TYPE* MANUFACTURER PRICE NOTES Binaural Signal Gen. AUDIO AudioImagery $390 Audio synthesizer HypnoPeripheral Proc. AUDIO HPP $40 Sublim tape sets Paraliminal Tapes AUDIO Paraliminal varies Range from $10-$35 AlphaSonics AUDIO AlphaSonics $36 40 sublim tapes Ultra-Meditation I-V AUDIO Zygon $49 Meditation tapes Synchro Energizer L&S Synchro-Tech $9000 Original; 4-user model, prices go to $150k Relaxman L&S Synchro-Tech $599 10 presets MC Squared L&S L&S Research $350 1st home model, 12 preset Innervision PR-1 L&S Mind Gear $299 Choice of LED or bulbs Innervision PR-2 L&S Mind Gear $349 Same as above, fully programmable DAVID Paradise L&S Comptronics $695 Fully programmable DAVID 1 L&S Comptronics $3700 Two-person, good audio Daydreamer LIGHT ? $15 Manually operated, you blow into it Dreamwave II L&S AlphaLabs $695 Programmable, good audio, externally expandable Shaman L&S AlphaLabs $180 Externally expandable Electro Stim CES AlphaLabs $300 Add-on to the Shaman or Dreamwave II EEG Controller L&S AlphaLabs $500 Biofeedback controller for Shaman, Dreamwave Mastermind L&S MindsEye $200 12 preset functions, small Courier L&S MindsEye $395 Similar to MasterMind MindsEye Plus L&S MindsEye $895 Programmable, good audio Synergizer L&S MindsEye $495 MindsEye Plus as add-in board for IBM PC IQ-Tutor L&S InnerQuest $120 A piece of cheap crap IQ-9110 L&S InnerQuest $329 21 preset functions InnerQuest II L&S InnerQuest $495 21 presets, programmable InnerQuest III L&S InnerQuest $595 InnerQuest II w/ built- in tape deck InnerQuest Pro-S L&S InnerQuest $895 InnerQuest III w/ micro- phone, audio out RelaxMate LIGHT Shealy $150 Lousy frequency control Tranquilite LIGHT Tranquilite $500 Ganzfield effect Theta-One L&S ? $195 Ganzfield effect, audio DreamLight DREAM Lucidity Inst. $999 Lucid dreaming hardware Alpha-Stim CS CES ? $650 Original CES hardware Mind Man CES ? $625 German Alpha-Stim clone Endo Stim CES MegaBrain $995 State of the art CES Nustar II CES Nustar $399 Cheaper, less flexible CES Brain Tuner 5 (BT-5) CES ? $350 Inexpensive CES L&S TurboCharger CES ? $299 Add CES to any L&S machine Alphapacer II L&S,CES ? $495 Combines L&S and CES Bio Cy 2000 L&S,CES ? $595 Combines L&S, ganzfield, and CES IdeaGenerator Plus SOFTW Experience $195 MS-DOS in Software Brainstormer SOFTW Soft Path $75 MS-DOS The Thinking Machine SOFTW Psychological $90 MS-DOS, Apple II Psoftware HyperTies SOFTW Cognetics $349 MS-DOS Guide SOFTW OWL ? MS-DOS, Macintosh Eliza SOFTW various varies everything Racter SOFTW Mindscape $45 MS-DOS, Macintosh PC Guru SOFTW ? $100 MS-DOS Mind Mirror SOFTW Mindscape $15? MS-DOS Synchronicity SOFTW Visionary Sfwr $60 MS-DOS, Macintosh * AUDIO = Audio stimulation, tapes (audio) LIGHT = Photic stimulation (light only) L&S = Light and sound mind machine CES = TENS and CES electrical stimulation DREAM = Lucid dreaming hardware SOFTW = Computer software Q: So where can I find and buy all of this stuff? A: Some of it's at Sharper Image, Hammacher Schlemmer, and other yuppie toy stores, but the best selection and prices are from two dealers, both of whom offer good catalogs: MegaBrain Tools for Exploration P.O. Box 2205 4460 Redwood Highway, Suite 2 Sausalito, CA 94965-9998 San Rafael, CA 94903 Voice: (415) 332-8323 Voice: (800) 456-9887 Fax: (415) 332-8327 Fax: (415) 499-9047 AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is version 0.1 of the FAQ for MIND-L, compiled by J. Brad Hicks ( The author is not responsible. (grin) Send clarifications, corrections, and suggested additions to the author. Send requests for additional info to MIND-L@ASYLUM.SF.CA.US. Send flames to /dev/null. EOF

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