What Is Bilateral Stimulation?

Bilateral stimulation is the continual rhythmic alternation of sensory input back and forth across the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

What's so special about bilateral stimulation?

Bilateral stimulation has been identified as supporting a wide range of positive benefits for a person's cognitive and emotional health. People  use bilateral stimulation to be more creative, improve positive thinking,  increase emotional resilience, reduce unhealthy or limiting beliefs, sharpen overall  cognitive skills, reduce stress, promote productivity and performance, relieve physical distress  and improve healthy mental and emotional responses to a wide range of troubling life issues. People continue to find new uses for this remarkable music!

How does bilateral stimulation work?

Your brain is comprised of close to 100 billion neurons that are capable of connecting with each other in an almost infinite number of ways.  And yet, despite all this potential neural diversity, brains often utilize the same neural pathways over and over regardless of whether or not they are the best connections to use for a particular situation.  This is the source of the saying that "neurons that fire together, wire together", which means that deeply ingrained patterns of thinking and feeling become heavily reinforced through repeated use, usually based upon conclusions initially reached outside of conscious awareness.  

But your brain is a vast neuronal universe outside of these well-traveled narrow paths.  The development of new synaptic sequences can bridge previously dormant neuropathways, creating new potential for optimal neural responsiveness to any stimuli.  Bilateral stimulation is a way to expand and develop new neural pathways to access new ways of processing information and experience.

Laura Parnell, who wrote a marvelous book titled "Tapping In: A Step-by-Step Guide to Activating Your Healing Resources through Bilateral Stimulation", said it this way: "Bilateral stimulation activates an accelerated processing effect that encourages an extraordinary free-associative process between the mind and body that causes thoughts, emotions, images, memories, body sensations, dreamlike fantasies and other aspects of perception to break out of their old patterns and move rapidly to new levels of self-awareness.

Bilateral stimulation has been used in psychotherapy protocols to desensitize and reprocess trauma-based encoding and enhance ego-state integration.  This means it's been used to help people get over bad stuff that has happened to them and feel better about themselves.  

What are the kinds of  bilateral stimulation?

There are different three modes of bilateral stimulation: visual, tactile and auditory. 

  • Visual bilateral stimulation occurs by continually moving the eyes back and forth from left to right. 

  • Tactile bilateral stimulation involves rhythmically tapping or touching two places on the opposite side of the body, such as both shoulders. 

  • Auditory bilateral stimulation occurs by wearing headphones to listen to sounds that travel back and forth from left and right.

While all three of these modes of bilateral stimulation can be useful, auditory bilateral stimulation  has some distinct advantages.  First, listening is a very receptive process: you have to consciously move your eyes or tap your body but you don't have to do anything to use your ears: you just put on headphones and let it happen.  

There are other benefits to auditory bilateral stimulation that occur simply based on how the brain processes music on a neurological basis.  Musical processing is distributed throughout the brain and involves nearly every neural subsystem.  Music taps into primitive brain structures involved with motivation, reward and emotion.  Music is capable of accessing pre-verbal neural encoding of experience.  Music also allows for a much wider variety of input than visual or tactile stimulation and adds the inherent power of music to the mix.  (We created a slide presentation about auditory bilateral stimulation that explains this topic at somewhat greater depth.) 


Another unique benefit of auditory bilateral stimulation -- and one which is so far ONLY available from the music created by Alternating Sounds, LLC -- is that it is capable of being harnessed to provide multiple simultaneous levels of bilateral stimulation.

What does "multiple simultaneous levels of bilateral stimulation" mean?

Recordings can mix different sounds so that they move back and forth at different bilateral strengths at the same time.  (The degree of movement away from the exact center of the auditory field is called its "bilateral strength".)   


Each Alternating Sounds LLC "soundscape" contains several types of sounds, each with a different bilateral strength.  For instance, music may extend 100% across the left-right spectrum, while the sound of a gentle stream may oscillate halfway from center (50% strength) and  a subtle tone or other soft sound such as a birdsong may travel across the auditory field just a few degrees.  The listener's brain is able to simultaneously process all of these different bilateral strengths, thus creating a much wider range of possible neurological activation.  Many listeners report that this feature, available only on the music produced by Alternating Sounds LLC, is much more effective than other sources of auditory bilateral stimulation that simply move from side to side at a single strength. 

What are "bilateral soundscapes"?

Alternating Sounds LLC considers each audio track it produces to be a "soundscape" because these are much more than songs.  Adding a wide variety of non-musical sounds results in a deeply affecting sonic experience.  Alternating Sounds, LLC incorporates several core principles of acoustic ecology to enhance the power of the listening experience.

Is bilateral stimulation anything like "binaural beats"?

Only in the sense that both have been identified as having a potentially positive benefit to overall brain-body functioning. 

Binaural beats are two sounds at slightly different frequencies which create what is known as a "beat frequency".  Different beat frequencies bring about certain optimal mental states (such as alertness, memory retrieval, creativity, relaxation, meditation, etc.), according to some theories.   This is one specific form of what is known as "brainwave entrainment".  The short answer is that it is another way to help the brain achieve enhanced neuronal capabilities through the careful manipulation of wave frequencies.   

Binaural beats don't work well with bilateral stimulation because they require two simultaneous frequencies (one in each channel) to produce the "beat", and since the sound is constantly traveling between the channels both frequencies can't be heard at the same time.  Instead, Alternating Sounds LLC has enriched many of its soundscapes with subtle use of a different form of brainwave entrainment called isochronic tones that gradually approach and maintain a beat frequency of 4 Hz (the "low theta" range).  Studies suggest that this frequency may be optimal for enhancing certain types of  neural functioning.  

How is auditory bilateral stimulation used in psychotherapy?

With proper guidance from a trained professional auditory  bilateral stimulation can be used to improve a wide range of troubling symptoms that are often the result of deeply embedded trauma or other insufficiently processed life experiences and which are typically out of reach of the cognitive and language capacity of the conscious mind.  Auditory bilateral stimulation is sometimes used in EMDR and often in advanced therapy techniques such as David Grand's Brainspotting and the Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM) developed by Lisa Schwartz.  Therapists and other healing professionals who want to use the bilateral soundscapes of Alternating Sounds, LLC in their work with clients should click this link.

Auditory bilateral stimulation is not a replacement for psychotherapy or professional care for serious medical or emotional issues.  However, many people have found the proper use of bilateral stimulation helps them feel better about themselves on a day-to-day basis and figure out problems that have been bothering them for long periods of time.

​In summary, this is true "brain fitness" music, designed to encourage healthy thoughts, emotions, creativity and insight.  What will it do for youClick here when you are ready to find out!

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Girl wearing headphones