Friday, September 23, 2016

The Impact of Binaural Beats on Creativity

Background
  
This study aimed to analyze the effect that binaural beats have on human creativity. The study defined binaural beats as an auditory illusion and form of cognitive entertainment that operates by stimulating neuronal phase locking. This auditory illusion occurs when a tone of a certain frequency is played in one ear, while another tone of a slightly different frequency is played in the person's other ear. Instead of hearing two separate tones, the person will hear one fluctuating tone, or a beat. For example, if a tone of 335 HZ is played in the right ear and a tone of 345 HZ is played in the left ear, then this results in perceived binaural beat of 10 Hz. In this study, binaural beats with an alpha condition and a gamma condition are used.

Past research has linked dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to human creativity. In addition, binaural beats are thought to affect dopamine-driven processes. Therefore, this study hypothesized that binaural beats can influence human creativity, and uses the variables of divergent thinking and convergent thinking to test this hypothesis. This is due to findings that both divergent and convergent thinking are two main processes in human creativity

Method 

The participants in this study consisted of 24 first-year students at Leiden University. Each participant took part in three separate sessions. The three sessions consisted of the participants listening to an alpha condition of 10 HZ binaural beats, a gamma condition of 40 HZ binaural beats, and a control condition of a constant tone of 340 HZ. Before and during each session, the participants' dopamine levels were tested through their eye-blink rate (EBR). During each session, the participants completed tasks involving divergent thinking and convergent thinking. 

For the divergent thinking task, participants completed an Alternate Uses Task (AUT). The AUT presented participants with six items: a brick, shoe, paper, pen, bottle, and towel. The purpose of the AUT was for participants to then list alternate uses for each item. The answers were scored on four components, originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration, in order to determine creativity. Participants were given 10 minutes to solve two items per session.

The convergent thinking task was a Remote Associations Task (RAT). The RAT presented participants with three unrelated words for which they had to find a single compound word that could be associated with each word. For example, the words "market", "star", and "hero" are all associated with the compound word "super", as in "supermarket", "superstar", and "superhero". Participants were given 4 minutes to solve 10 items per session.

Finally, the participants' moods were assessed before and after each session using a Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Mood State Questionnaire (PANAS-S). This is because the study assumed that positive mood influences divergent and convergent thinking.

Results

A repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to measure the differences in EBR during each session, and found that there were no differences. In other words, the alpha, gamma, and control conditions did not have different effects on the participant's EBRs. Additionally, the study found that the effects of binaural beats on both divergent and convergent thinking were not statistically significant. However, the study found that participants with lower baseline EBRs (20 blinks per minute or lower) revealed beat-induced benefits in divergent thinking. The enhancements in divergent thinking especially related to the task's flexibility component. On the other hand, binaural beats impaired divergent thinking in participants with higher baseline EBRs (20 blinks per minute or higher). The study determined that mood did not affect the difference in divergent thinking performances for participants with lower baseline EBRs. 

The study concluded that binaural beats trigger dopamine, but instead support neuronal phase locking in general. The study also stated that binaural beats do not represent a comprehensive tool for cognitive enhancement, such as creativity, as it relies on the individual's dopamine levels (indicated by the individual's baseline EBR).

Critiques

The sample for this study was not very diverse as the participants consisted of 24 college students between the ages of 17 and 25 years-old who were mostly female (22 females; 2 males). It would be interesting to see if the results of the study would differentiate with a larger and more diverse group of participants. There were also many components in the study that were being analyzed, making it difficult to determine the significance of the study's findings. For example, it is confusing that the study found that binaural beats did not cause any differences in the EBRs between each session, and yet binaural beats influenced the divergent thinking performances for participants with lower baseline EBRs.



Source

Reedijk, S. A, Bolders, A., & Hommel, B. (2013). The impact of binaural beats on creativity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(786). doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786. Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786/full 

 

8 comments:

  1. Did they state the difference in results between the males and females in this study overall?

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    1. The study did not state any differences between the males and the females in the study.

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  2. Aubrey, I like the approach on this! I took a Creative Thinking in Entrepreneurship class in undergrad and we discussed/practiced at length convergent and divergent thinking. I find it interesting that they tested BB on those thinking strategies. Go the Dutch! I am curious, however, as to how they measured dopamine levels through the subjects blinking as seen here: "Before and during each session, the participants' dopamine levels were tested through their eye-blink rate (EBR)." Did they go into any further discussion on this method?

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    1. Tom, that sounds like an interesting class! Yes, they did go into more detail about that. It's a little lengthy, but the following paragraph from the study goes into detail on how they tested the participant's EBR before and during each session:

      "Participants’ spontaneous EBRs were measured for 5 min at the start of each session using a BioSemi ActiveTwo system (BioSemi Inc., Amsterdam). During measurement of the blinks participants were not presented with any auditory stimuli. Spontaneous EBR was measured using six Ag/AgCL electrodes: two placed next to the outer canthus of each eye (measuring saccades), and two placed above and below the right eye (measuring the blink). Two electrodes placed on the mastoids served as a linked online reference. Participants were instructed to relax and look (but not stare) straight ahead at a paper with a fixation cross that was taped on the computer monitor. This monitor was turned off during EBR measurement. As EBR is stable during the day but goes up in the evening (after 8.30 pm; Barbato et al., 2000), participants were never tested after 7 pm. Blinks were identified automatically, and then manually checked for errors (such as noise segments wrongly identified as blink) in BrainVision Analyzer. Individual EBR was calculated by dividing the total amount of blinks during the 5 min measurement period by 5."

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  3. I know from experience with the neuroscience studies done at Mount Union that a student body of 24 is about normal for a basic study of observations, so the group size didn't surprise me. In tandem with Charles, it would be interesting with a larger group, but first I'd want to see it tested evenly with the same number of females and males and then compare the results to this first study by means of gender. I am also surprised that mood didn't influence divergent thinking, but that may be due to the diverse measures of male to female ratio in the observations group. So I'd also like to see that measured out as well especially if it's during a time like finals week when stress is really hitting the observation group.

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    1. Roland, yes it would be interesting to see if males and females compared differently in further research. I was more or less criticizing the fact that it was a group of students, thus making it a less diverse group of people. But I agree that if the study is done on students then it would be interesting to see how stress could factor in.

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  4. Aubrey did they mention anything about the stress levels of each student or what time of the school semester/year they did the study?

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    1. Unfortunately the study did not give any details on stress or the time of the study.

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