Would you like to train your brain? Recent studies suggest that binaural beats might benefit multiple aspects of your cognitive functioning.
Wat are binaural beats?
Binaural beats are created by listening to two different tones, one in each ear separately. This creates the subjective experience of a tone with a frequency of the difference between the two tones; the binaural beat. Even though the exact mechanism remains uncertain, binaural beats seem to entrain the brain into the same frequency as the binaural beat, leading to an enhancement of cognitive functioning. But which cognitive functions can be enhanced by binaural beats?
Most research has focused on the effect on attention. Even though the evidence on individuals with attentional deficits remains mixed, evidence on healthy individuals does suggest that binaural beats can enhance attention. For instance, binaural beats have been shown to eliminate the attentional blink, leading to a bias in attentional control towards a broader focus of attention. In addition, the impact of binaural beats on attention seems to not be caused by an increase in top-down control but rather by an increase in attentional focusing.
Furthermore, creativity also seems to benefit from binaural beats. A study conducted at Leiden University examined which specific aspects of creativity can be affected by binaural beats. Creativity is related to both divergent thinking (providing multiple answers to a problem) and convergent thinking (providing only one correct answer to a problem). Results showed that the binaural beat affected the performance on divergent thinking, but not the performance on convergent thinking. Surprisingly, the effect depended on the eye blink rates of the individuals. Whereas individuals with low eye blink rates benefitted from the stimulation, individuals with high eye blink rates were unaffected or even impaired by the stimulation.
Moreover, binaural beats also seem to affect multitasking. A recent study at Leiden University examined the effect of binaural beats on the performance on two tasks. Participants listened to either binaural beats in the gamma range or a control tone while performing a dual-task paradigm. They demonstrated that the individuals who listened to the binaural beats had an increase dual-task crosstalk, suggesting that binaural beats bias cognitive control towards cognitive flexibility.
Finally, binaural beats seem to affect feature binding; the ability to integrate multiple properties of a stimulus to perceive it as one object. Feature binding can either be a combination of visual and action feature or a combination of two visual features. A recent study showed that binaural beats only decreased the costs to bind two visual features. The researchers suggested that this finding indicates that binaural beats facilitate selectivity when episodic memory traces are updated.
In summary, binaural beats seem to affect both attention, creativity, dual-task crosstalk, and feature binding. Despite the promising results, evidence is still very scarce. More research is needed to replicate the recent findings.