Is this legit or a bunch of hooey?
May 22, 2013 4:27 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone tell me if Audio Visual Entrainment (AVE) actually does anything? Does it actually help with depression/anxiety, or is it all just a bunch of hooey? Is it worth the money?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's a few cheap iPhone apps for that.
posted by Sophont at 4:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Placebo has been shown to be effective in treatment of [mild] depression/anxiety, and as placebos go, this device has a lot going for it: technical obfuscation, flashing lights, clicky buttons, interesting sounds, a high price and many fine testimonials.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:40 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Mod note: Deleted a specific site link from the post. (For info, one site charges between $295 and $525).
posted by taz (staff) at 5:35 AM on May 22, 2013

Response by poster: seanmpuckett, I know all that and you're totally right. That is exactly why I'm skeptical of this, it all sounds somewhat magic crystal-y and based in wishful thinking, which is why I am asking if anyone knows of any studies or evidence that it does anything significant.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:01 AM on May 22, 2013

Did you read the linked Wikipedia article? It cites a raft of studies, and concludes rather positively that AVE may give results better than p,acebo for some clinical applications:

Treatment Implications of AVE [edit]

A review of 20 studies on brainwave entrainment found that it is effective in improving cognition and behavioral problems, and alleviating stress and pain.[44]
The results of a study on children with attention-deficit disorder found that AVE was more effective than neurofeedback for treating ADD symptoms.[45]
A migraine headache study involving seven migraine sufferers found that AVE sessions reduced migraine duration from a pretreatment average of six hours to a posttreatment average of 35 minutes. Measuring 50 of the participants' migraines, 49 migraines decreased in severity and 36 were stopped when using AVE.[46]
Another clinical study showed declines in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation following a treatment program using AVE.[47] A study by Berg and Siever used audio-visual entrainment devices on women suffering with seasonal affective disorder. Both depression and anxiety symptoms were reduced in participants, as compared to a placebo phase. Participants also reported improvements in their social lives, with increased happiness and sociability, decreased appetite, increased energy and weight loss.[48] A study by Cantor and Stevens found significant decreases in depression scores in participants after four weeks of using AVE.[49]
A study by Thomas and Siever showed that many people with chronic temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) brace up when asked to relax. AVE at 10 Hz produced deep masseter muscle relaxation and finger warming within six minutes.[50] Audio entrainment has shown promise as a singular therapeutic modality for treating jaw tension and TMD pain.[51] AVE has been used to reduce jaw pain, patient anxiety and heart rate during dental procedures.[52]

Of course we all know how reliable Wikipedia is for science issues! But the linked studies would seem an obvious place to start.

As to whether any particular program for achieving "AVE" is well designed or related in any way to these studies, who knows? But there is a clinical literature. I generally consider almost all such things to be bullshit, but this has some research behind it.
posted by spitbull at 6:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've tried some meditation stuff using binaural beat sound/light machines, which seem to be part of this general class of things. I found it a help for meditation, mostly (I think) due to providing a good focus for me, but I'm not sure it did anything different for me than a similar amount of time just doing straight-up meditation.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sure the makers of the expensive devices would disagree but if you're curious to experiment, you can get virtually the same thing for $SAIT.

As a single data point, I've been using this somewhere between occasionally and semi-regularly as a relax-before-bed thing since, well, a couple months ago. My depression has indeed significantly decreased during that time period, but it does that every year because February. Social anxiety is still much as it always was thanks very much for asking.

Serves pretty well as an assistive crutch for meditation, though. At twenty bucks I feel like I got my money's worth.
posted by ook at 7:06 AM on May 22, 2013

Best answer: I think the posters above are on to something. It seeems to be a tool to help get into a meditative state. I am immediately skeptical of a single treatment that claims to treat everything from TMJ and migraine to mood disorder and ADHD. If it was such a miracle cure, why aren't we using it more often? The journals that the Wikipedia article points to are not the most rigorous in terms of peer review. You will probably get equivalent results with a mindfulness meditation approach.
posted by goggie at 7:40 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think that the meditative effect sounds pretty likely, and there is a ton of research on mindfullness meditation and its affect on depression and anxiety.

I believe I am going to look more in to mindfulness meditation. It seems to be a much more promising (and cheaper) option.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Compared to the billions spent on SSRI's which are proven to work less well than a placebo it would seem to be money well spent. Mind you it would work better if you didn't think it was snakeoil. I did a google scholar searchand a number of academic studies were evident.
posted by BenPens at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, BenPens, but SSRIs are not proven to work less well than a placebo. That would mean that they actually have a negative effect. Some studies have shown that they don't work much better than a placebo, though others do show a significant improvement over placebo, but I know of no studies that actually show them to be worse than a placebo.

If this AVE stuff really costs $300 and up, then I'd want to see some good studies that show that it's significantly better than placebo. On the other hand, I think there are good studies supporting mindfulness, so I'd go for that (or some variety of meditation) before spending money on something that sounds a bit too much like expensive snake oil.
posted by The Mascot at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2013

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