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THE EFFECTS OF BINAURAL BEATS UPON SUSTAINED ATTENTION

Neural entrainment is the capability of the brain to synchronize its brainwave oscillation frequencies with a frequency of external stimuli. This ability allows us to artificially induce a desired type of brainwaves that match a particular neural activity corresponding to an intended brain-state.

 

The inducing external stimuli can be either visual, tactile, or auditory. Sound stimuli in our study use binaural beats, a perceptual phenomenon induced by two tones of different frequency listened to by each ear separately. The resultant tone caused by the disparity affects the frequency of brainwaves and creates neural entrainment.

 

Our aim was to induce Beta brainwaves, which has been proven to have a positive effect on long-term and visuospatial working memory [1, 2], and measure their effect on sustained attention, which has not been examined yet.  

 

30 participants with no attentional malfunctions were split into two groups of 15. At first, each group underwent a control sustained attention task without any sound stimuli.  

 

Subsequently, the participants listened to either binaural beats or pink noise and underwent the same test again.

 

For this experiment a track was created, consisting of Beta binaural beats at 16 Hz and overlaid with musical tune that makes the listening more pleasant. The control group listened to pink noise, an audio spectrum with an acoustic energy distributed evenly by octave. Since none of the reviewed studies using binaural beats for less than 5 minutes showed any significant effects, the track was played for 10 minutes before the cognitive task began to ensure there was enough time for the brain to adjust. Subsequently, the level of sustained attention was tested while the sound stimuli persisted.

 

We have used the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), which is a go/ no-go test measuring sustained attention. The test evaluates the scores of reaction time, the number of omissions and the number of false calls.

 

We have observed a significant improvement of sustained attention while listening to the binaural beats in comparison to pink noise. This means that the track with binaural beats  could be a possible tool in inducing sustained attention in healthy subjects. Further examination detects that the main difference occurred in the reduced number of omissions with binaural beats on.

 

The reaction time didn’t change significantly. These findings are substantial in a discussions regarding its possible use in real-life tasks. Following studies should focus on defining the most optimal frequencies and time limitations as well as the long- term use effects of the binaural beats   

 

 

References:

[1] M. Garcia-Argibay, M. A. Santed, and J. M. Reales, “Binaural auditory beats affect long-term memory,” Psychological Research, Aug. 2017.

[2] C. Beauchene, N. Abaid, R. Moran, R. A. Diana, and A. Leonessa, “The Effect of Binaural Beats on Visuospatial Working Memory and Cortical Connectivity,” Plus One, vol. 11, no. 11, 2016.