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Brief bursts of infrasound may improve cognitive function--an fMRI study

Brief bursts of infrasound may improve cognitive function--an fMRI study

Hearing Research 328: 87-93

At present, infrasound (sound frequency < 20 Hz; IS) is being controversially discussed as a potential mediator of several adverse bodily as well as psychological effects. However, it remains unclear, if and in what way IS influences cognition. Here, we conducted an fMRI experiment, in which 13 healthy participants were exposed to IS, while cognitive performance was assessed in an n-back working memory paradigm. During the task, short sinusoidal tone bursts of 12 Hz were administered monaurally with sound pressure levels that had been determined individually in a categorical loudness scaling session prior to the fMRI experiment. We found that task execution was associated with a significant activation of the prefrontal and the parietal cortex, as well as the striatum and the cerebellum, indicating the recruitment of a cognitive control network. Reverse contrast analysis (n-back with tone vs. n-back without tone) revealed a significant activation of the bilateral primary auditory cortex (Brodmann areas 41, 42). Surprisingly, we also found a strong, yet non-significant trend for an improvement of task performance during IS exposure. There was no correlation between performance and brain activity measures in tone and no-tone condition with sum scores of depression-, anxiety-, and personality factor assessment scales (BDI, STAIX1/X2, BFI-S). Although exerting a pronounced effect on cortical brain activity, we obtained no evidence for an impairment of cognition due to brief bursts of IS. On the contrary, potential improvement of working memory function introduces an entirely new aspect to the debate on IS-related effects.

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Accession: 057326938

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PMID: 26260309

DOI: 10.1016/j.heares.2015.08.001

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