Articles and Research on Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI)

A Study for Improved Concentration by Acoustic Drum Rhythms Music Medicine Therapy

Translated from Dutch

by Wim Oostra, Director cbs the Spreng-El, Ane (Netherlands)

“We can't stop our search, it always ends at the beginning, like we never have been there”.



Inspired by my experience at the Professor Waterink School and the diagnostic of ADD (attention-deficit disorder) for one of my twin-sons, and the knowledge that the apple never falls far from the tree, I studied the related book for this illness; "ADHD for dummies" from the series YELLOW. In this book, the author, Jeff Strong, tells us incidentally about his Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention Institute. In this institute he developed a therapy based on the fact that the state of mind and the level of concentration can be positively influenced externally by acoustic drum rhythms. The here for relevant parts of the brain (which(simply said)speak a rhythmic language) take over this specific rhythm whereby they are being reset actually to the desired rhythm pattern.

Jeff Strong got acquainted to several drumming technics during his music-study. In combination with himself being diagnosed with ADD this resulted in a quest for years toward hand drumming. Because of his discontent about the know techniques he researched rhythm techniques, from 1982 to 1994, which in different cultures are being used already for over a thousand years as part of ritual and general physic and mental healthcare(shamanic drumming) whereby 3 or 4 beats per second are being used. These techniques were probably spread from West Africa to the USA and the Caribbean. He discovered that these cultures (which developed separately) show amazing similarity within this. Further on he analyzed the different applications (who were permanently related to cultural ideas) with modern sound techniques which eventually lead to his "Music Medicine Therapy" where hand played drum rhythms of 8 beats per second are used (the so-called auditory driving).


How does this technique of influencing the brain works? In our environment we find several examples of two movements who adapt to each other. For example two people who have a conversation during a walk. They will adapt(wanted or unwanted) their walking pace to each other. Trying to fight this, will cost a lot of energy and is in fact impossible. Another example is the ability of physical adapting while traveling through different time-zones and the time difference during summer and wintertime. Also the possibility of influence of our breathing and heartbeat-rhythm by the steady noise of a car-engine. This phenomenon whereby two separate movements under specific conditions turn into one equal movement is called s synchronization. This phenomenon was first discovered by Christiaan Huygens around 1650. A beautiful illustration of this phenomenon is shown at: TMZASCR-I

Because Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention uses different, not the most predictable rhythms(like 21/16) the intended parts of the brain are being activated. This also appeals to the self-teaching ability of the brain whereby the natural balance is being restored, Jeff Strong has been able to visualize this on an EEG.


In 1994 J.S started a research under 16 kids, diagnosed with ASS(Autistic Spectrum). The results were so special that universities and ASS-specialised research-labs also started this research. R.E.I. is hereby the first institute which applies more than 600 rhythms in the fields of energy level, impulsiveness, stress, moods, sleep, Asperger, ADD, ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorders, teach disorders, OCD, ODD, PDD, schizophrenia, Tourette Syndrome, traumatic

brain damage, communication-disorders, depressions and epileptic diseases. However the therapy is in a positive way as a constructive support in its nature, it isn't meant to stop your regular medication without consult. This can only be done in consult with your doctor. Also there are, in most cases, several facts playing a role in these disabilities. This therapy is “just" a part of the treatment.

The most significant features of R.E.I. are:

  • Auditory driving : the brains are directly being influenced in a reasonably predictable way on the contrary of other methods whereby f.i. music creates a mood that evokes personal images on which the body reacts.Complex rhythms don't create (on the contrary like simple rhythms) a habit which makes it less effective.
  • Individual fine-tuning is possible. Each person is different also in development level. This makes it necessary to personalize the "Custom program", which is possible by communicating about the experiences (written down in a logbook) with Jeff.
  • The cd's are being listened in an open environment. This means total integration into your daily environment (sounds/conditions). It's not something like you have to apply, after treatment, in your own environment.
How does it work practically?

In practice there will be made a personal recording with drum-rhythms. Don't think of the common drum-set but think about f.i. the drumming-instruments used in Africa

During the first 4 weeks you listen for 20 minutes, uninterruptedly (= 1 track) to the rhythms on cd or mp3 while doing your daily work or any convenient moment. You should not be watching tv or listening to other music).

From the 5th week unto the 8th week you listen at least 3 times a week.

The volume level must be muted to the level were you can hardly hear the rhythms, so your curious brain has to work harder.

Using headsets the volume must make normal conversation possible while listening, because within the REI method the surrounding noises are very important. The risk of turning the headset volume to high will disturb the effect in which the sounds could be translated as disruptive

The result of the REI method won't be of a sudden improvement, but more like a progressive improvement within time towards its goal.


As I said at the beginning, I did as a graduation project for the management course of Octave research into the effects of "Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention" on relevant concentration facets of children. Because the regular listening to the "calm-demo" (download from positive effects on myself seemed to have, I decided to do further research. In addition to the standardized tests that a student and I myself succumbed, with and without listening to the rhythms (based pediatrician and psychologist Immink and psychologist Van der Zwaag of the hospital Hardenberg), I did extensive research among a large group of children.

As a teacher (at the time) at a school for Special Education of Needs (Professor Waterink School, Hardenberg) I was in the privileged position to carry out this study among 100 children of different ages with different special educational needs. After several pilot tests I finally came to the final test on a scale from 0 to 2000 milliseconds the change in concentration measured during 4 sessions of 20 minutes in which the children work on a very boring computer task, making a strong appeal is made to the working memory: click the mouse when on top of the screen a small black square appears, do not click when the black square at the bottom of the screen appears (based on the TOVA test used to determine inattention with teenagers and adults).

The test group (consisting of 100 children aged from 6 to 13 years) were divided into two groups: a "Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention" - group (listening during the third and fourth session to the "Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention- rhythms” ) and a placebo - group (listening during the third and fourth session  to fake rhythms that were specially composed for this occasion by Jeff Strong himself.

The test first first was made twice by both test groups without the rhythms and then twice with the (fake-)rhythms, without knowing which version was played. By making a placebo group, the influence of the desirable- thinking- effect ("If you want it to be successful, the results will be better") was excluded from the final conclusion. The results were automatically processed in an excel document (the whole test including the basic document for the results storage was made by Erik Nijeboer, computer programmer Hardenberg). Eventually of each child individually were made some graphs showing the average results of both individual sessions and joint sessions by recording the process. All this even divided over 4x5 minutes to show the result-movements during each session.

Subsequently, the difference in results with and without the rhythms was converted to individual growth rates. A distinction was made in the wrong mouse clicks, missed clicks, right clicks and time required was measured on a scale from 0 to 2000 milliseconds.

Summary of the results.

The children of the "Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention" group in general took more time, made fewer mistakes and failures which resulted in an improvement in the number of correct responses. This may be regarded as a particularly good result of the study, especially when we look at the fact that the test administration took place in the last weeks of the school year, which more non-conventional activities took place. In addition, the children had little time to get used to the rhythms (normally applies here a period of 3 weeks).

Because the number of children with different educational needs varies, no hard final conclusions are given for each individual educational need. However, it is noteworthy that the ASD group (4 children) show a remarkably high growth regarding the measured reaction time. The results for the LOM and MLK group seem to be similar.

The  results above invite us to do more research on the effect of  "Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention"  within previously mentioned groups. Perhaps the future  provides me or others the opportunity to dive deeper into this matter creating new possibilities inside and outside the area of (Special) Education  of Needs . Ultimately, drumming is not so dumb at all …”

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