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  • Andy Steele

Sound Affects: Why time goes all wibbly-wobbly

One of the most common things I hear after a soundbath is that you lose track of time, not that it disappears altogether, because you remember parts of it. If it's your first soundbath, you're probably much more aware of what is happening; you just lose a sense of how long one instrument lasts compared to another. It's as though time goes a little bit wibbly-wobbly. Is there a scientific explanation for this?





Falling asleep

Our brains have different gears, like the gearbox in a car. When we're in 4th gear, the car is in full flow and able to handle whatever the road ahead brings. This is our "Beta" state where our brain operates at between 12.5 -30Hz. We then have have 3 more lower gears. The one I'm most interested in is Theta. This is the state/gear your brain is in before you fall sleep. We're probably daydreaming or just super-relaxed. Our brain has effectively put the hold-music on while it does more important things like replenishing minerals it needs from elsewhere in our body in order for it to function. We're not really fully aware of what's going on around us but we also haven't entirely switched off either. Sometimes we drop down into our lowest gear, Delta. This is sleep. Then I'll consciously bring you back up again to Theta or maybe even Alpha but you could also drop back down to Delta. This is what happens when we sleep naturally overnight. We don't just go through the gears and spend 7 hours down in Delta. We have periods where we are more awake than others and this is what is being replicated in a soundbath, so this will go some way to explaining why chunks of time disappear.

But not everyone falls asleep. It's perfectly normal to not drop down into Delta at all, but still I hear that someone says they lost track of time. So what else could be going on?




Dorso-lateral pre-frontal cortex (dlPFC) aka "The Time-Keeper"

At the front of our brains, is a large region known as the Pre-Frontal Cortex. It is Brain HQ, and although overall it deals with executive functions such as problem-solving, emotional regulation and focus and judgement. It can be broken down into smaller elements which have more specific functionalities. One such region is known as the Dorso-Lateral Pre-Frontal Cortex (dlPFC). Researchers are interested in this region because they've found that it has a role in PTSD as it can go offline during a flashback leaving a sufferer stuck in memory rather than the present moment. However, it might also go offline when we are relaxed because the pre-frontal cortex doesn't have a great deal to do during a soundbath. There are no problems to solve or judge and your inner ear is being positively charged with frequencies and rhythms that promote your para-sympathetic nervous system (promotes relaxation).




There are numerous other reasons which may influence how much time goes wibbly-wobbly; sound-sensitivity, any injuries triggered by sound, how much emotional, physical and mental charge you were carrying when you arrived, diet such as drinks including caffeine and alcohol, temperature of the room, the instruments being used, the practitioner/ therapist and the weather (if you're outside).





https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-18119-x - sound used to increase learning

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hbm.24307 - sound used to charge sgacc and dlpfc



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