Sunday, September 25, 2016

High-Frequency Binaural Beats Increase Cognitive Flexibility: Evidence from Dual-Task Crosstalk

This study focused on the affect binaural beats had on the brain's ability to multitask. Theories stated that the use of binaural beats for cognitive control had two methods, persistent and flexible. The persistent beats allowed a listener to focus on a single task whereas the flexible beats allowed the listener to be able to focus on several tasks equally. This study looked at the affect the second selection of beats had on crosstalk, which is, in this case, two tasks affects on each other. Previous studies had suggested that there is some connection between certain types of frequencies and this crosstalk phenomenon.
The study used forty students (32 female, eight male; aged 18–27 years old) from Leiden University. At the end of the experiment, they received a fiver and were debriefed. A test group was exposed to "gamma" frequencies (40 Hz binaural beats) and a control group listened to a 340 Hz standard frequency. The participants were asked questions about their overall mood and state of arousal. They then, while listening to their respective noises, performed a series of simple key press tasks which were recorded and analyzed.
The study found there were statically significant events in the study to the respondent's reaction times. These increases in reaction times show that the use of binaural beats for cognitive flexibility shows verifiable gains. Furthermore, the questions on mood show that there was no change to mood from pretest to posttest, which the researchers used to rule out the theory's concerning the injection of dopamine into the central nervous system as the reason for previous test's success. Essentially, the test showed that there was increased crosstalk within the task as potentially brought on by the use of binaural beats.
The whole report was written several leagues of smart above my station. While that itself is not a point against it, it tells me that this concept is still rather new. The hard science, with its top tier terminology, is still working on the topic to understand the effect of binaural beats on the cognitive functions of humans. What this says is the field is still very new and there is still some serious research that needs to be done before any definitive statement for or against binaural beats can be made. Furthermore, it may be some time before much of it is flushed out. Finally, I listened to so called binaural beats while reading the report and writing this synopsis. I found there to be no difference in my ability to focus on the task while listening to binaural beats versus white noise. However, the reports states: "On the positive side, our findings suggest that binaural beats provide the opportunity for cognitive enhancement by providing people with tools to tailor their cognitive-control states to situational demands." This means that the researchers feel that their test shows that binaural beats can be used to alter the cognitive abilities of a listener. While I am hesitant to argue with experts, the concept of binaural beats must lay in the ears of the listener. 

Hommel, B., Sellaro, R., Fischer, R., Borg, S., & Colzato, L. S. (2016). High-Frequency Binaural Beats Increase Cognitive Flexibility: Evidence from Dual-Task Crosstalk. Cognition, 1287.


  1. How did they come up with the conclusion that binaural betas allow people to control their cognition if there was only one test frequency and test group? Was there another section of the research or testing that they also looked at or are they extrapolating from limited data?

  2. If I understand it correctly, that conclusion was based on their study primarily. However, they did also draw from previous studies. They are doctors, mind you, and I'd wager that they have a good idea as to what constitutes a sufficient pool of data.