Mental fatigue is a psycho-biological state induced by long periods of intensive cognitive activity, which leads to slower reaction and attention deficit. That affects the abilities of concentration and optimal decision making throughout fulfilling this task. Mental fatigue is an often reason of road and/or workplace accidents and may lead to low education productivity. We know that awareness has a positive effect on cognitive activity and overcoming stress. There is also cumulative data confirming that listening to binaural beats may increase stable attention. Binaural beats are an auditory illusion. Having tones of different frequencies (165 Hz on the left and 179 Hz on the left) in each ear a person hears one tone which is a united difference between those 2 tones (14 Hz betta-frequency).
In the new research Johanne L. Axelsen (SDU), Ulrich Kirk (SDU) and Walter Staiano (University of Valencia) are checking the effectiveness of binaural beats compared to awareness as a strategy for cognitive recovery in order to counter the negative effects of mental fatigue on stable attention. The research also checks if the attention interventions has any effect on a group of newbies and an experienced attention group, who had been practicing attention for 4 weeks through an on-line attention program via Headspace app.
The research consisted of 5 phases. During phase 1 the researchers assessed the participants’ mood (BRUMS), and they fulfilled tasks requiring constant attention to measure one’s mind wandering (SART). Phase 2 consists of treating the mental fatigue in 90 minutes (AX-CPT). Immediately after that the participants’ mood was assessed again and two interventions took place: either listening to a consciousness meditation track for 12 minutes or an audio track (with binaural beats) for 12 minutes. The control group was asked to relax for 12 minutes. After that the results of these interventions were tested using the task of stable attention.
Those results indicated that binaural beats actually have a positive effect on stable attention in the state of fatigue. It’s noteworthy that the “binaural” group fulfilled the stable attention task better than any other group even before mental fatigue was induced. Besides, the results of that group were better that the “meditating” and control groups after inducing mental fatigue.
These results combined with the previous ones indicate that binaural beats may help suppress mind wandering and increase attention focus, which, in turn, reduces the negative effect of mental fatigue. A person may feel more relaxed and less prone to mental fatigue after listening to music.
The same goes for the “meditating” group. Their attention training had proved itself on the first task, which they have done better than other groups. This shows that consciousness practice helps you concentrate on a current task and offer effective strategies for overcoming stressful situations as well as saving mental energy.
Thus, the research showed that just 12 minutes of binaural beats and 4 weeks of consciousness training were effective recovery strategies for countering the negative effects of mental fatigue on stable attention.
These days, the researchers are trying to establish if either listening to binaural beats for a long period of time or consciousness practice improves the heart rate variability (HRV) of people in a state of stress and if either of them affects the completion of specific cognitive tasks.
Axelsen, J.L., et al. (2020) On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00162-3.