For TikTok's Viral 'Brain Massage,' All You Need Is A Pair Of Headphones

Have you ever been listening to your music with your headphones and it seemed to you that the music was floating from one ear to the other? We've all heard a song or two that has been engineered that way, and for many people, this audio technique can feel like the space you're in is suddenly much larger — or it can have a relaxing and calming effect. This is what some social media influencers on TikTok are calling "brain massaging" or "brain flossing."

On TikTok, #brainfloss has over 28 million views as of publication, and #brainmassage has over 56 million. TikToker @reamichellew explains it this way: "Brain massage or bilateral stimulation aka 8D is a method that stimulates both sides of the body or the brain to create a calming effect." She even posted a video for her over 108,000 followers, explaining how to achieve the top "brain massage" effects. "All you have to do is sit back, close your eyes, and get some headphones," she instructs. She then plays a song, and yes, it does sound like the audio is filling our heads from one side to the other! The video has been liked more than 123,000 times, so is there something to this "brain massage," or "brain flossing?" Can music engineered this way really give us peace? And what is bilateral stimulation?

Brain massaging allows you to focus

TikTok user @reamichellew said brain massage or brain flossing music is also known as 8D, and it would seem many of our fave songs have been re-engineered in 8D. You might be thinking 8D means the audio is experienced in an eighth dimension, but there is no eighth dimension that we know of. According to experts, 8D is referring the sensory experience of audio engineered in this fashion. "My understanding is that just like flossing gets rid of unwanted particles between teeth, 8D audio can provide a sense of 'brain flossing' by removing unwanted stimuli," board-certified music therapist Abby Klemm told PopSugar. "With this technique, your brain can focus on the here-and-now sensory experience, giving you the opportunity to refocus, reconnect, and clear out any 'brain gunk.'"

So why is TikTok telling us the best way to experience this is through our headphones? "Your right and left brain are receiving the sensory input, respectively," Klemm explained, noting that because the sound bounces between one ear, then the other. It's crossing the body in a rhythmic pattern, creating that "bilateral stimulation" mentioned earlier. Bilateral stimulation is essentially a "brain massage" because, as Klemm puts it, "The alternation can provide almost a sense of 'balance' to your brain. This then can 'clear out' your mind and provide a sense of relaxation and mental focus."

We all experience sounds differently

TikToker @reamichellew said in her video that due to the different ways we all experience sound, "bilateral stimulation might be too intense or uncomfortable" for some people. "Individuals with sensory processing disorders like autism spectrum disorder or conditions like migraines or epilepsy may be more likely to experience discomfort," she said. Although it's not clear from her video if she's speaking as an expert authority or is just reading other expert texts, other outlets have agreed that bilateral stimulation isn't for everyone. "A few have reported experiencing dizziness and nausea from the listening experience," author Jack Webb wrote for the Evening Standard. "So it is always important to monitor your reaction to any new technology and stop if it gets uncomfortable."

TikTok comments seem to corroborate this. "My autistic/ADHD self recoiled HARD at this! at least I know learned something new about myself (again)," one TikTok user commented on a video.

Clearly, more research here is needed, so monitoring your response to 8D is a good idea. If it does have a calming effect on you, make sure you take the time to plug in a decent pair of headphones, close your eyes, and enjoy the sounds massaging their way through your mind.