Auditory beat stimulation is an upcoming technique for non-invasive brain stimulation. Its influence on mediotemporal regions and memory processes has not yet been thoroughly investigated. A recent study suggests that auditory beats are able to alter intracranial EEG (iEEG) power and phase synchronization. 5 Hz binaural beat stimulation increased temporo-lateral phase synchronization, while 5 Hz monaural beat stimulation decreased mediotemporal synchronization. Based on the relevance of phase synchronization for memory operations, we hypothesized that 5 Hz binaural beat stimulation enhances, while 5 Hz monaural beat stimulation decreases long-term memory performance. We analyzed data from presurgical epilepsy patients with implanted depth electrodes in the hippocampus and rhinal cortex. 5 Hz monaural and binaural beat vs. control stimulation was applied while patients performed an associative learning task involving item and source recognition. We evaluated behavioral effects for item (hits minus false alarms) and source memory (correct minus incorrect) and the impact of auditory beats on iEEG power, rhinal-hippocampal phase synchronization and inter-trial phase locking. A three-way repeated measures ANOVA (encoding/retrieval, item/source, monaural/binaural/control) revealed a main effect of stimulation (p = 0.03) and a linear effect in the expected direction: binaural > control > monaural (p = 0.036). Both monaural and binaural stimulation were associated with increased phase locking of 5 Hz oscillations within rhinal cortex. These phase locking increases, however, corresponded to reverse phase shifts. Our data suggest that binaural vs. monaural 5 Hz stimulation increases vs. decreases long-term memory performance. These behavioral effects appear to be related to reverse phase shifts within rhinal cortex.
Keywords: EEG phase locking; associative memory; binaural beat; hippocampus; monaural beat; rhinal cortex.