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Modulation of Mind Wandering Using Auditory Beat Stimulation: a Pilot Study

Abstract

Mind wandering refers to the process of generating thoughts unassociated with the task at hand or surrounding environment. Previous studies indicate that persistent mind wandering often contributes to negative mood states. Thus, a neuromodulatory technique enabling a reduction in the propensity to mind wander would be desirable. Binaural and monaural beat stimulation is a novel, non-invasive brain stimulation method which has been shown to modify brain activity in regions supposedly involved in mind wandering. In the current study, 40 participants performed a variant of a sustained attention to response task with embedded experience sampling probes, to identify episodes of mind wandering and to assess meta-awareness. During the execution of the task, participants were exposed to binaural and monaural beats at 5 Hz and 40 Hz, in addition to two control conditions (silence (no sound, headphones-only) and pure sine wave at 440 Hz). In the overall group and across all stimulation conditions, we observed no statistically significant modulation of mind wandering. However, a median-split of the data into two subgroups defined by high versus low mind wandering during silence, revealed an effect of stimulation on mind wandering across all conditions in the high mind wandering subgroup, as well as a significantly reduced propensity to mind wander during 5 Hz monaural beats vs. silence. Levels of meta-awareness were unaffected by the stimulation. These findings tentatively suggest that application of auditory beat stimulation may lead to a reduction in levels of mind wandering in subjects who show a greater tendency towards mind wandering.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Dr. Roy Cox and Dr. Christian Hoppe for their helpful comments regarding the statistical analysis, and Dr. Thomas Reber for his insightful comments regarding the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Leila Chaieb.

Ethics declarations

The study and all experimental procedures were approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn and were in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Data Availability Statement

All data and accompanying analyses are archived at the Department of Epileptology, University of Bonn, Germany. Data and analyses can be made available upon reasonable request.

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Chaieb, L., Derner, M., Leszczyński, M. et al. Modulation of Mind Wandering Using Auditory Beat Stimulation: a Pilot Study. J Cogn Enhanc (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-019-00137-4

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Keywords

  • Auditory beat stimulation
  • Binaural beats
  • Monaural beats
  • Mind wandering
  • Meta-awareness