1Effect of Bilateral Stimulation on Students Through Music


    I’m delighted to present an insightful piece by Bryarrose Thompson on the topic of bilateral stimulation, inspired by my article on bilateral music and EMDR. Check out the foundational ideas in my piece here.

    It’s exciting to see how shared knowledge can lead to new discoveries, so thanks for sharing and I’m happy my work helped.

    Bilateral Stimulation: introduction

    Bilateral Stimulation is a technique that utilizes sounds, tapping, or eye movement that continuously switches back and forth between the left and right sides (Ala’ilima, 2023). This approach stimulates both sides of the brain and allows the individual to focus on the specific sensation rather than the things causing the stress.

    Bilateral stimulation can be found in common actions such as running, as the right and left foot alternate in their steps causing an activation of both sides of the brain (Bentancor, 2023).

    Bilateral music can be particularly helpful when used in therapeutic applications for those with anxiety, ADHD, and those who have experienced trauma (Rieger, 2024). It is causing eye movements with audio tones on alternating sides to create positive feelings during emdr treatment.

    Moreover, this audio technique can be beneficial in slowing down a person’s thinking and regulating their breathing when treated with an emdr therapist (Rieger, 2024).

    Bilateral Music Stimulation effectively regulates a person’s mental health, which connects the brain to most internal organs (Waxenbaum, 2023). By controlling various physiological processes such as heart rate and blood pressure, Bilateral Music Stimulation helps to relax the body in many ways.

    Alternating Bilateral Stimulation for mental health

    The Autonomic Nervous System has three parts: the parasympathetic, sympathetic, and enteric systems.

    The parasympathetic division is responsible for resting and digesting (Waxenbaum, 2023). In contrast, the sympathetic division controls the sense of “fight or flight” in the human body, and the enteric division determines how the body digests (Waxenbaum, 2023).

    The physiology of bilateral stimulation techniques

    The study of physiology has helped to provide greater insight into the functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System and the benefits of using Bilateral Music Stimulation for relaxation instead of visual bilateral stimulation. Another new tool to reduce anxiety is tactile stimulation.

    Physiology looks at the functions of an organism in its entirety (Scheer, 2023). By doing so, the world better understands what goes on inside the human body and how it can be affected by different things such as therapy.

    There are many varying branches of physiology, one of which is neurophysiology.

    As stated earlier, the sympathetic division of the Autonomic Nervous System controls “fight or flight” instincts (Waxenbaum, 2023) sometimes caused by traumatic memories. An example of a neurophysiological state is fear, which is largely linked to anxiety, something that Bilateral Stimulation works to relieve (Chand & Marwaha, 2023).

    Since physiology is the study of functions in living organisms, it also works to observe the visible symptoms of different physical occurrences, such as anxiety and panic attacks. Physiological symptoms of anxiety include heightened heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling light-headed, chills, nausea, trembling, and much more (Chand & Marwaha, 2023).

    Bilateral Stimulation works to help reduce the occurrence and severity of these symptoms.


    One other physiological reaction studied in the process of this project is a sensation called frisson.

    Frisson occurs due to a close connection between your auditory system and your emotional processing center (Westmaas, 2019).

    When MRIs are done on subjects that experience chills, tingling, or anything of the sort, it is found that they have a higher volume of fibers that connect their auditory cortex to the prefrontal cortex the place in person, where sensory stimuli and their emotions are registered (Westmaas, 2019). Frisson can often make its appearance as a tingling sensation in the frontal lobes or area of your brain.

    Auditory Bilateral Stimulation in EMDR therapy

    Auditory Bilateral Stimulation is a treatment method used during EMDR therapy. EMDR Therapists can use bilateral audios to trigger eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR.

    Many studies have been conducted to see how trauma victims, whether they are single or multiple-event victims, react to EMDR therapy (Alderton, 2018). The results have varied, some being 84-90% success for single trauma victims after three ninety-minute sessions and some being 77% success for multiple event victims with six fifty-minute sessions (Alderton, 2018).

    EMDR therapy works not only to move memories and help treat PTSD, but also anxiety, addiction, depression, and phobias (Alderton, 2018). Overall, 7 out of 10 studies show that an EMDR therapy treatment is a more effective treatment and impactful therapy than a typical cognitive-behavioral therapy (Ala’ilima, 2023).

    There have been many studies on how Bilateral Music Stimulation and EMDR Therapy help those with complex PTSD, severe cases of trauma, and distressing memories; however, there are rarely studies done on how these therapies help students.

    In this experiment, I will proceed to test how Bilateral Stimulation Audios affect willing participants around the average age of 14. A survey will be conducted and completed by said willing participants where an audio will be provided to be listened to.

    This study will look at how much this therapy form affects younger human beings who are still attending school. Any medical conditions such as ADHD and anxiety can be listed and feedback will be collected to see how much or little the subjects are affected. It is hypothesized that a majority of the participants will experience relief whether they have medical conditions or not.

    Bilateral Stimulation: methods and materials

    My targeted population for my experiment was students between the ages of 12-16. Out of the approximately 225 students the survey was offered to, only 46 completed the form with usable data. 

    Out of the 46 participants, 8 were male while the remaining 38 were females. There were no specifications as to who was or was not able to do the survey. It was open to all.

    I used convenience sampling which bases all my participant selection off of who was willing and available to take part in my survey. While this was not my ideal sample method, it was the easiest and most doable for my project and the people I was offering the survey to.

    The survey

    The survey provided for the students to fill out was an online survey I created with the help of Google Forms. The survey was a quick one, consisting of 6 questions with an optional space bottom for any additional questions, comments, or concerns regarding the experiment.

    At the very top, I provided a brief yet descriptive set of instructions as to how to correctly complete the form and the experiment. I kept the audial track the same for every participant by attaching the link to it in the form for them to listen to before filling out the rest of the questions below.

    The questions were a mixture of open-ended responses, multiple choice, and select all that applied. I came up with questions that were simple and quick enough for the participants to fill out while still providing me with enough information to assemble usable data.

    I made a QR code that I printed on a bunch of sheets of paper with a quick message asking for volunteers, and posted them up on whiteboards around the school.

    Before finalizing my form, I had my mom and a couple of other peers take a look at the questions to make sure they were something people would be willing to complete. I fixed up grammar mistakes and made questions that made complete sense and had no chance of messing anyone up.

    I tested out the form first on myself, making sure I was able to access the audio link and could comprehend the questions asked. A few tweaks were made to the form, but overall it was kept the same as the original. The form was fully composed and posted in English as every student at the school the test was administered to has an understanding of the English language.

    I was looking at the age of the participants, trying to keep a closer age range, while also looking at how they were feeling before and after the audio. One specific question I asked was whether or not they had the physiological reaction of frisson that could tell me more about certain subjects’ brains.

    This way I would have some specific physical evidence to refer to for data tables since it was a yes or no question.

    I was able to collect data from almost all the questions, but interpreted them into different styled graphs suited to best display their results.

    Bilateral Stimulation: experimentation

    The very first step in this entire experiment was deciding how I would be able to administer the survey to as many willing participants as possible. This resulted in my choice of creating a questionnaire in Google Forms that I easily made into a QR code to post for people to scan.

    I went through several different audios that had different levels of stimulation effects, songs, and other variables that could affect my project, trying to find the one that I thought had the best balance of all said variables, before choosing the one I linked at the top of the survey the volunteers would open.

    Then I came up with the questions for the people to answer after or while they were listening to the song. As they filled in and submitted the survey, I was able to see all of them on my Google Forms account.

    After a few weeks of leaving the survey open for people to complete, it slowly dwindled until it seemed as though no more responses would be coming in. I began to look at the data, figuring out how I could compile it into an accurate report, and reading through all the responses.

    While some gave me the bare minimum, some gave even more than I could have asked for. I knew that responses would vary in quality because of it being an open survey, but I was prepared to make ends meet.

    After reviewing my data and making sure I did have enough to put into a report, I started writing my report and thinking about the presentation I would need to create as well. While the experiment may have seemed pretty simple, the hardest part was getting students to complete it.

    This whole project was based on their cooperation with me and the experiment, making it difficult to achieve the best results, but I still got there.

    Bilateral Stimulation: the data

    Chart 1: This pie graph displays the two sides of the participants: those who felt frisson (Group 1) and those who did not (Group 2). 

    Chart 2: This collum graph shows the difference between female (light blue) and male (dark blue) participants.

    Chart 3: This bar graph shows the number of females (light blue) and males (dark blue) and their listed medical conditions

    Chart 4: This pie graph displays the participants’ reactions post-experimentation. Shows whether they felt they had a neutral (teal), good (light blue), or bad (dark blue) reaction.

    Bilateral Stimulation: result

    After my experiment, I gathered all the participants’ responses and started grouping and evaluating them.

    In the previous four graphs, the data for the top four components of my research was compiled and compared. My overall goal for this study was to simply see how Bilateral Stimulation with music affected students and from the number of volunteers I received I put together my findings that will be documented in the following section.

    It was discerned that the same amount of female and male participants felt better or worse after completing my trials.

    38% of subjects reported feeling more relaxed after listening to the audio than before. In close comparison, a second group of participants, equalling 38% of the total participants as well, reported feeling more tense and disturbed than they had before. The final 24% responded to my question of post-experimentation questions as neutral. They felt no change in how they felt before.

    A key component in the process

    One of the other important variables of my experiment was seeing which of my volunteers experienced the physiological response of frisson. People who experience frisson have been proven to have a greater volume of fibers connected between their auditory cortex and a section of the brain regarding emotional control.

    Researchers suggest that around 50% of people experience sensations such as chills or a lump in their throat when listening to music (Westmaas, 2019). This statement is proven in graph 1, which depicts the results of whether or not frisson could be felt by each person.

    As recorded, 53.2% did experience frisson while 46.8% did not, which is just a few percentage marks from being 50/50.

    I was able to supervise all the responses and constantly check on my numbers as they came in, which allowed me to start compiling my data into certain sections. Once the slow flow of responses came to an apparent stop, the experiment was finished and it was time to start compiling everything into this report.

    Bilateral Stimulation: discussion

    Overall, with the lack of willing participants, I was not able to gather quite as much data as I would have liked to, but I luckily still had enough to pull together a report that could easily provide an opportunity for retesting my topic again next year.

    There are many things I could change about the processes involved in completing this project. Things such as posting more flyers with QR codes, finding better ways to sway people into completing them (things such as visual cues or attention grabbers), and changing some of the things in the survey.

    I think I would come up with a way to better test the effects on students. This could include testing with multiple different audios and for different durations of time. Another thing that would benefit a retesting of this topic would be getting a more equal amount of female and male participants.

    I think a wider selection of participants would drastically increase the succession of the testing and the data that came out of it. I wish more people would have been interested, but I am grateful to all those who gave it a chance. I wondered if giving the survey directly to the volunteers in a one-on-one environment would have helped me increase my numbers.

    Bilateral Stimulation: Conclusion

    All in all, I think that this experiment truly did reveal new information as to how Bilateral Simulation and EMDR therapy affect the brains and emotions of students. I do not think it deserves all the hype it may be receiving as the testing done with it has been on a specific group of individuals based on their medical conditions and not on a general population.

    My original hypothesis stated my beliefs that Bilateral Stimulation would help individuals, whether they be with or without medical conditions, in a positive manner. After completing my research and studies, however, I believe that my hypothesis has been proven incorrect.

    Every human being has a different brain, and my hypothesis was lacking common sense as to the fact I would not be able to understand each mind.

    By making this my hypothesis, I was disregarding the fact that every brain is unique and does not function the same as the next person. In conclusion, I am happy with the way things turned out, even if they were not ideal, because I got to learn about something I enjoy. Also, now I know how I could improve this experiment if I so choose.

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