Facilitating or disturbing? An investigation about the effects of auditory frequencies on prefrontal cortex activation and postural sway


Auditory stimulation activates brain areas associated with higher cognitive processes, like the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and plays a role in postural control regulation. However, the effects of specific frequency stimuli on upright posture maintenance and PFC activation patterns remain unknown. Therefore, the study aims at filling this gap. Twenty healthy adults performed static double- and single-leg stance tasks of 60s each under four auditory conditions: 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000 Hz, binaurally delivered through headphones, and in quiet condition. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy was used to measure PFC activation through changes in oxygenated hemoglobin concentration, while an inertial sensor (sealed at the L5 vertebra level) quantified postural sway parameters. Perceived discomfort and pleasantness were rated through a 0–100 visual analogue scale (VAS). Results showed that in both motor tasks, different PFC activation patterns were displayed at the different auditory frequencies and the postural performance worsened with auditory stimuli, compared to quiet conditions. VAS results showed that higher frequencies were considered more discomfortable than lower ones. Present data prove that specific sound frequencies play a significant role in cognitive resources recruitment and in the regulation of postural control. Furthermore, it supports the importance of exploring the relationship among tones, cortical activity, and posture, also considering possible applications with neurological populations and people with hearing dysfunctions.

Frontiers in Neuroscience