An auditory illusion thought to synchronize brain waves and alter mood is no more effective than other sounds, according to research in adults recently published in eNeuro. The effect reported in other studies might be a placebo but could still have helpful effects for some people.
Binaural beats are an auditory illusion caused by listening to two tones of slightly different frequency, one in each ear. The difference in frequencies creates the illusion of a third sound - a rhythmic beat. Neurons throughout the brain begin to send electrical messages at the same rate as the imaginary beat. Many unsupported claims surround binaural beats, including that listening to them decreases anxiety, increases focus, and improves mood.
Orozco Perez et al. played binaural and monoaural beats to healthy adults and measured their brain activity with electroencephalography. Monoaural beats don't rely on the illusion to create the beats because they consist of edited audio tracks of the two different tones together. Both ears hear all three sounds. Brain activity synchronized with both types of beats, but the effect was stronger with monoaural beats. Neither type of beat affected mood. When the binaural beat played, far apart brain areas synchronized with each other at a different frequency than the beat. This may be how binaural beats improve memory and focus.
Manuscript title: Binaural Beats Through the Auditory Pathway: From Brainstem to Connectivity Patterns
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eNeuro is an online, open-access journal published by the Society for Neuroscience. Established in 2014, eNeuro publishes a wide variety of content, including research articles, short reports, reviews, commentaries and opinions.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.