G. Riva, M. Atkins, M. Ellingsen, H. Randhawa, E. Stiffler, D. Young, C.J. Wutzke

Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

Listening to music while performing tasks such as driving or exercising is common and research suggests classical or heavy metal music can improve reaction time (RT) on cognitive performance tasks; although the neural mechanisms are not understood. Music tempo can affect human cognition, diet, and driving behaviors, but there is minimal research about the impacts of tempo on RT. PURPOSE: To compare choice RT between high tempo (H), low tempo (L), and silent (S) auditory conditions in the upper and lower extremity (dominant and nondominant limbs) in unimpaired, young adults. METHODS: 20 participants performed 18 RT trials—9 upper extremity (UE) and 9 lower extremity (LE) trials respectively—using an app-based light reflex training system. Each trial consisted of 10 randomized lights with participants contacting the light either with the dominant (D) or nondominant (N) limb depending on the color of the light. Participants’ RT was measured from when the light was illuminated to the time when participant contacted the light. Statistical analyses included 3x2x2 repeated measures ANOVAs to examine RT and variance in RT with an alpha value of p0.05. RESULTS: Participants’ RT was measured in 6 conditions (H/UE: 656 ± 114ms, H/LE: 877 ± 138ms, L/UE: 667 ± 106ms, L/LE: 874 ± 134ms, S/UE: 676 ± 133ms, and S/LE: 901 ± 137ms). RT was slower in the lower extremity than upper extremity (F(1,18)=195.869, p< 0.001). There was no difference in RT between the different music tempos (F(2,36)=1.519, p=0.233), or between limb dominance (F(1,18)=1.089, p=0.310). There were no interaction effects and no difference in variance across conditions. Across all participants, there was 99.97% accuracy in choice RT. CONCLUSION: RT is slower in the lower extremity, potentially due to postural control considerations and less LE experience responding to “left” and “right” commands. Tempo has no effect on RT, which indicates participants may have tuned out the music and/or the cognitive load was too low. Limb dominance likewise has no effect on choice RT. Participants seemed to prioritize accuracy over speed with one error during all trials completed. Further research is needed to examine how different populations may respond to this procedure, how choice RT is affected by a greater cognitive load or familiar music.

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