Efficacy of binaural auditory beats in cognition, anxiety, and pain perception: a meta-analysis

Psychol Res. 2019 Mar;83(2):357-372. doi: 10.1007/s00426-018-1066-8. Epub 2018 Aug 2.


Binaural auditory beats are a perceptual phenomenon that occurs when presenting separately to each ear two tones that slightly differ in their frequency. It has been suggested that binaural beats can influence cognition and mental states among others. The objective of this meta-analysis was to study the effect of binaural beats on memory, attention, anxiety, and analgesia. Twenty-two studies met our inclusion criteria for this meta-analysis. The results, based on 35 effect sizes, showed an overall medium, significant, consistent effect size (g = 0.45). Meta-regression results indicated that it does not seem to be necessary to mask binaural beats with white noise or pink noise in terms of effectiveness, obtaining similar effects with unmasked binaural beats. Moreover, the findings suggest that binaural-beat exposure before, and before and during the task produces superior results than exposure during the task. Time under exposure contributed significantly to the model indicating that longer periods are advisable to ensure maximum effectiveness. Our meta-analysis adds to the growing evidence that binaural-beat exposure is an effective way to affect cognition over and above reducing anxiety levels and the perception of pain without prior training, and that the direction and the magnitude of the effect depends upon the frequency used, time under exposure, and the moment in which the exposure takes place.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Attention*
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Pain Perception*