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Poster D11

Nature Ultrasoundscapes for Attention Restoration and Stress Reduction

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Adam Cotton1 (, Stephen Van Hedger2, Ewan Macpherson1, Jessica Grahn1; 1University of Western Ontario, 2Huron University College

Engaging with natural environments has been shown to reduce stress and improve cognitive performance. Exposure to natural stimuli may refresh our ability to focus by providing a respite from constant demands on our attention. Natural stimuli may also improve emotional and physiological well-being, mitigating the negative effects of stress. This effect has been demonstrated by comparing recordings of natural soundscapes to urban soundscapes. Natural soundscapes often include frequencies that are beyond the range of human hearing (ultrasound). Stimuli with ultrasound appear to increase alpha activity in the brain more than stimuli without ultrasound. Alpha wave activity is associated with a state of relaxed alertness, which may assist with tasks that require focused attention. Relaxation is typically linked to decreased stress levels. It is presently unknown whether incorporating the ultrasound range into recordings of natural soundscapes (aka ultrasoundscapes) can enhance their attention-restoring and stress-reducing properties. To investigate this, we conducted a randomized controlled trial comparing the effects of different types of soundscapes (nature or urban) with different levels of bandwidth (audible-only or audible plus ultrasound). We used a backward digit span task and an n-back task to both deplete and assess attention. Participants completed Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) questionnaires to assess their stress levels and emotional responses. Both the task blocks and questionnaires were completed before and after the soundscape intervention. The study compared the attentional and emotional outcomes of natural and urban soundscapes, with and without ultrasound frequencies, to quantify their effects on attention restoration and stress reduction.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory


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