Drinking Coffee and Listening To Music Linked To Cognitive Arousal

In Education

A recent study from NYU Tandon School of Engineering, utilizing innovative brain-monitoring technology called MINDWATCH, has revealed that common activities like listening to music and drinking coffee can enhance cognitive performance in tasks demanding memory and focus.

Music and coffee enhance cognitive performance

Developed by NYU Tandon’s Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Rose Faghih over six years, MINDWATCH is an algorithm that assesses brain activity using data from wearable devices measuring electrodermal activity (EDA). This indicates variations in electrical conductance caused by emotional stress and associated sweat responses.

The study, featured in Nature Scientific Reports, involved participants using brain monitoring headbands and skin-monitoring wristbands to undergo cognitive tests. These tests were conducted both while engaging with personalized stimuli like music, perfumes sniffing, and coffee drinking and without these stimulants.

The MINDWATCH algorithm demonstrated that music and coffee consumption had a discernible impact on participants’ brain arousal, influencing their “state of mind” and potentially affecting their performance in working memory tasks.  Study findings indicate that stimulants caused a rise in “beta band” brain wave activity linked to optimal cognitive performance.

MINDWATCH can enable individuals to monitor cognitive arousal

The global pandemic has adversely affected people’s mental well-being, highlighting the urgency of tracking the impact of daily stressors on cognitive function. Faghih emphasizes the significance of developing MINDWATCH, a technology aimed at enabling individuals to monitor their cognitive arousal in real time. While still in the developmental stage, the goal is to create a tool that can identify moments of cognitive disengagement or of acute stress, prompting users to take simple interventions like listening to music to improve their mental state and enhance their performance in tasks such as work or school.

The study utilized a cognitive test called the n-back test, focusing on working memory were subjects was asked to identify a series of sounds and images to ascertain if the current stimulus matched the one presented “n” items back. The test included a 1-back version, where participants indicated if the current stimulus matched the previous one, and a more difficult 3-back version, where participants identified matches with stimuli three items back in the sequence.

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