• 1 Department of Medical Imaging, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, 21300, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
  • 2 Center for Health and Applied Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50300, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 3 Department of Radiology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, Jalan Yaacob Latif, Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras, 56000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • 4 Department of Neuroimaging, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, United Kingdom
  • 5 Department of Neurosciences, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus, 16150, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia
  • 6 Department of Psychology, International Islamic University Malaysia, Jalan Gombak, 53100, Selangor, Malaysia
  • 7 Pusat PERMATApintar Negara, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600, Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia
Heliyon, 2019 Sep;5(9):e02444.
PMID: 31687551 DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02444


Research suggests that white noise may facilitate auditory working memory performance via stochastic resonance. Stochastic resonance is quantified by plotting cognitive performance as a function of noise intensity. The plot would appear as an inverted U-curve, that is, a moderate noise is beneficial for performance whereas too low and too much noise attenuates performance. However, knowledge about the optimal signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) needed for stochastic resonance to occur in the brain, particularly in the neural network of auditory working memory, is limited and demand further investigation. In the present study, we extended previous works on the impact of white noise on auditory working memory performance by including multiple background noise levels to map out the inverted U-curve for the stochastic resonance. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), twenty healthy young adults performed a word-based backward recall span task under four signal-to-noise ratio conditions: 15, 10, 5, and 0-dB SNR. Group results show significant behavioral improvement and increased activation in frontal cortices, primary auditory cortices, and anterior cingulate cortex in all noise conditions, except at 0-dB SNR, which decreases activation and performance. When plotted as a function of signal-to-noise ratio, behavioral and fMRI data exhibited a noise-benefit inverted U-shaped curve. Additionally, a significant positive correlation was found between the activity of the right superior frontal gyrus (SFG) and performance in 5-dB SNR. The predicted phenomenon of SR on auditory working memory performance is confirmed. Findings from this study suggest that the optimal signal-to-noise ratio to enhance auditory working memory performance is within 10 to 5-dB SNR and that the right SFG may be a strategic structure involved in enhancement of auditory working memory performance.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.