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Beta and gamma binaural beats enhance auditory sentence comprehension

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Abstract

Binaural beats—an auditory illusion produced when two pure tones of slightly different frequencies are dichotically presented—have been shown to modulate various cognitive and psychological states. Here, we investigated the effects of binaural beat stimulation on auditory sentence processing that required interpretation of syntactic relations (Experiment 1) or an evaluation of syntactic well formedness (Experiment 2) with a large cohort of healthy young adults (N = 200). In both experiments, participants performed a language task after listening to one of four sounds (i.e., between-subject design): theta (7 Hz), beta (18 Hz), and gamma (40 Hz) binaural beats embedded in music, or the music only (baseline). In Experiment 1, 100 participants indicated the gender of a noun linked to a transitive action verb in spoken sentences containing either a subject or object-relative center-embedded clause. We found that both beta and gamma binaural beats yielded better performance, compared to the baseline, especially for syntactically more complex object-relative sentences. To determine if the binaural beat effect can be generalized to another type of syntactic analysis, we conducted Experiment 2 in which another 100 participants indicated whether or not there was a grammatical error in spoken sentences. However, none of the binaural beats yielded better performance for this task indicating that the benefit of beta and gamma binaural beats may be specific to the interpretation of syntactic relations. Together, we demonstrate, for the first time, the positive impact of binaural beats on auditory language comprehension. Both theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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Data availability

The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Neuroscience Innovation Foundation for supporting this research. Our special thanks goes to Lydia Noh, Yasir Mian, and Matthew Heard for their help on manuscript preparation and to Katherine Wood for proof-reading.

Funding

This work was supported in part by the Neuroscience Innovation Foundation grant (Grant number 22–004).

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Authors and Affiliations

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Contributions

Conceptualization: H-WK and YSL, Methodology: H-WK and YSL, Investigation: JH; Formal analysis: H-WK; Data curation: H-WK; Writing – original draft: H-WK and JH; Writing – review & editing: H-WK, JH, and YSL; Supervision: YSL.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yune Sang Lee.

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The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

Ethical approval

The methodology for this study was approved by the University of Texas at Dallas Institutional Review Board (IRB-21–109).

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Kim, HW., Happe, J. & Lee, Y.S. Beta and gamma binaural beats enhance auditory sentence comprehension. Psychological Research 87, 2218–2227 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-023-01808-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-023-01808-w

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