Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have conducted a pilot clinical study to determine whether a noninvasive approach that uses musical tones to balance brain activity can “reset” the brain and effectively reduce insomnia.
The study was published in the journal Brain and Behavior. It was funded by a $26,696 grant from Brain State Technologies, LLC, the company that owns the technology used in the study.
The new technology is called HIRREM, high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring or, as it’s commercially known, Brainwave Optimization. The non-invasive procedure uses a system that is designed to reflect the brain’s frequencies back to itself using musical tones. Resonance between the musical tones and the electrical energy in a person’s brain can bring balance to the two hemispheres of the brain.
Study results were based on a change in the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), which measures the severity of sleep disruption using a zero-to-28 point scale; the median ISI for study participants was between 18.7 and 18.9, which is considered moderate-to-severe insomnia.
Researchers found that the HIRREM group had a 10.3 point drop in ISI, improved insomnia symptoms, and clinically moved into a category of “no insomnia” or “sub-threshold insomnia.” The control subjects, who continued their existing insomnia treatment without HIRREM, showed no change in ISI. However, when the crossover control group received HIRREM therapy, the results were indistinguishable from those of the original HIRREM group.
The limitations of the study include the small number of study participants and the absence of a sham-placebo control group, which prevented blinding. Researchers are planning a larger clinical trial using a sham placebo to confirm the HIRREM effect and further explore the technology.