The Effect of Binaural Beats on Visuospatial Working Memory and Cortical Connectivity

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 28;11(11):e0166630. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166630. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Binaural beats utilize a phenomenon that occurs within the cortex when two different frequencies are presented separately to each ear. This procedure produces a third phantom binaural beat, whose frequency is equal to the difference of the two presented tones and which can be manipulated for non-invasive brain stimulation. The effects of binaural beats on working memory, the system in control of temporary retention and online organization of thoughts for successful goal directed behavior, have not been well studied. Furthermore, no studies have evaluated the effects of binaural beats on brain connectivity during working memory tasks. In this study, we determined the effects of different acoustic stimulation conditions on participant response accuracy and cortical network topology, as measured by EEG recordings, during a visuospatial working memory task. Three acoustic stimulation control conditions and three binaural beat stimulation conditions were used: None, Pure Tone, Classical Music, 5Hz binaural beats, 10Hz binaural beats, and 15Hz binaural beats. We found that listening to 15Hz binaural beats during a visuospatial working memory task not only increased the response accuracy, but also modified the strengths of the cortical networks during the task. The three auditory control conditions and the 5Hz and 10Hz binaural beats all decreased accuracy. Based on graphical network analyses, the cortical activity during 15Hz binaural beats produced networks characteristic of high information transfer with consistent connection strengths throughout the visuospatial working memory task.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Behavior
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The research leading to these results has received funding from the General & Age Related Disabilities Engineering (GARDE) program through the National Science Foundation (Award Numbers: 1055315 and 1604279). NSF had no role in the design of the study, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.