There are many different kinds of devices that could be called a mind machine, but mostly, the term is used to describe a particular kind of sensory device. These consist of headphones attached to glasses, which are designed to create certain light patterns in front of the user’s eyes. At the same time, specific sounds play in an orchestrated way that coincides with the display of the images. The effect is meant to make an individual calmer and possibly change the way he thinks for a short length of time. There is very little evidence to suggest these devices have any medical use, but people who use them often claim to enjoy the effect, and they possibly may experience relaxation or other benefits.
One major aspect of the effectiveness of a mind machine is the concept of depriving the senses and then replacing them with something else. There is evidence to show that when people’s senses are deprived, they often visualize something to replace them. For example, some individuals have used devices called sensory deprivation tanks to force their minds into a hallucinatory state.
A mind machine replaces normal vision and hearing with orchestrated sound and light shows. This supposedly causes a very similar effect to a sensory deprivation tank. For example, the individual might see shapes or patterns in the light show that aren’t really there, possibly because his mind is trying to make the randomness of the light pattern into something that seems sensible.
Some people use a mind machine to help them with meditation. In some ways, this is not that much different from meditating while staring at a lighted focal point or a fire and simultaneously listening to sounds designed to stimulate relaxation. Sometimes people find it easier to become entranced by visual aids, and this is why visual focuses are often used during the hypnotism process.
There are also individuals who use a mind machine just to relax themselves. Even though what they’re doing may be very similar to meditation, they may not think of it that way at all, and they might not rely on any formal methods. For example, some people wear the devices to help them be more creative or to help deal with stress after work.
The mind machine is similar to many other technologies, such as the aforementioned sensory deprivation tanks. Using sounds to change brain waves is also pretty common, and the idea of using flashing lights to affect mental perception is fairly old as well. Examples in history would include the use of stroboscopic light in a device called a dream machine, which could be seen as an early version of the same technology behind the mind machine.