Mental fatigue is a psychobiological state that is caused by prolonged periods of demanding cognitive activity. Mental fatigue slows down reaction times and causes attention deficits.
It also affects the ability to focus and interferes with the capacity to make optimal decisions for any task. Mental fatigue leads to accidents in traffic or can cause poor study efficiency. Studies have revealed that mindfulness has a positive effect on coping with stress and cognitive performance. Also, there are many studies that prove listening to binaural beats increases sustained attention. In other words, music therapy benefits all those with mental fatigue.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy or binaural beats are an auditory illusion that has been framed as a class of cognitive and neural entrainment (Kirk et al., 2019).
There are different tones of different frequencies (165 Hz on the left and 179 Hz on the right) presented in each ear of the participant. The participant will hear one tone, which is the amalgamated difference between the two tones (beta range of 14 Hz).
Neurologic music therapy and its Effects on cognitive recovery strategy
According to a new study, Johanne L. Axelsen (SDU), Ulrich Kirk (SDU), and Walter Staiano (University of Valencia) tested the efficacy of binaural beats and compared it to mindfulness as a cognitive recovery strategy. The aim was to counteract the negative effect of mental fatigue on sustained attention.
The study tested whether the mindfulness interventions influenced the on-the-spot novice group or the experienced mindfulness group, who have practiced mindfulness for four weeks in an online-based mindfulness program through the app Headspace.
The study consisted of five phases. In the initial phase, the participants’ moods were assessed (BRUMS) and they completed a sustained attention task to measure their mind wandering (SART). The second phase included the mental fatigue treatment for 90 minutes (AX-CPT).
Soon after, the participants’ mood was assessed again, and the two on-the-spot interventions were followed: either listening to a guided mindfulness meditation track for 12 min. or an audio track (with binaural beats) for 12 min. The control group was then asked to relax for 12 min. After this, the effects of the interventions were tested using the sustained attention task.
Results of the cognitive recovery strategy
The results indicated that there was an effect of on-the-spot binaural beats or music therapy on sustained attention while in experimentally induced mental fatigue.
What was more interesting is that the experienced mindfulness group performed better than the rest of the groups on the sustained attention task before the mental fatigue was induced. Furthermore, the group’s performance was better than the novice mindfulness group and the control group after mental fatigue was induced.
The results from this and previous work by Kirk et al. (2019), indicate that binaural beats may help in suppressing mind-wandering and sharpening of attentional focus. This in turn reduces the negative effect of mental fatigue. The individuals may feel more relaxed and less affected by mental fatigue after listening to the music. This is called healing music therapy.
The same goes for the experienced mindfulness group, their mindfulness training already showed on the first task where they performed better than the rest of the groups. This indicates that practicing mindfulness helps you focus on the task at hand and is effective in offering strategies to handle stressful situations and economizing mental energy.
Therefore, the study demonstrates that just 12 minutes of binaural beats and four weeks of mindfulness training were effective recovery strategies that can be used to counteract the negative effects of mental fatigue on sustained attention. In this way, music therapy benefits all those who are experiencing mental fatigue of any kind.
The researchers are currently investigating whether listening to binaural beats for a longer period or practicing mindfulness will improve stressed individuals’ heart rate variability (HRV) and if this influences performance in specific cognitive tasks.
Materials provided by University of Southern Denmark Faculty of Health Sciences. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Johanne Lundager Axelsen, Ulrich Kirk, Walter Staiano. On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2020; 4 (1): 31 DOI: 10.1007/s41465-019-00162-3
University of Southern Denmark Faculty of Health Sciences. “Music intervention and mindfulness reduces the effect of mental fatigue.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2020.
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