New brain-test app

February 8, 2013
New brain-test app
Josef Bless, University of Bergen, and colleagues found that smartphones can be used as a tool for psychological testing. Credit: Copyright: Eivind Senneset/UiB

Two years ago, researcher Josef Bless was listening to music on his phone when he suddenly had an idea.

"I noticed that the sounds of the different instruments were distributed differently between the ears, and it struck me that this was very similar to the tests we routinely use in our laboratory to measure . In dichotic listening, each ear is presented with a different syllable at the same time (one to the left and one to the right ear) and the listener has to say which seems clearest. The test indicates which side of the brain is most active during ," Bless explains.

Josef Bless is working on a PhD in psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is a member of the Bergen fMRI Group, an interdisciplinary research group headed by Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, who has received a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant for his .

The app for dichotic listening is called iDichotic and was launched on the App Store in 2011, where it can be downloaded for free. Some one year later, more than 1,000 people have downloaded the app, and roughly half have sent their test results to the researchers' database.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Watch the video showing how the iDichotic app was developed and how it works in practice for patients who suffer from schizophrenia. Credit: University of Bergen

The researchers analysed the first 167 results they received and compared them with the results of 76 individuals tested in laboratories in Norway and Australia. The results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

"We found that the results from the app were as reliable as those of the controlled . This means that smartphones can be used as a tool for , opening up a wealth of exciting new possibilities," says Bless.

"The app makes it possible to gather large volumes of data easily and inexpensively. I think we will see more and more psychological tests coming to smartphones," he adds.

The researchers have also developed a special version of iDichotic for patients with schizophrenia who suffer from (i.e. hear "voices"). The app helps in training patients to improve their focus, so that when they hear voices, they are better able to shut them out.

"Using a mobile app, patients can be tested and receive training at home, instead of having to come to our laboratory," says Bless.

The app iDichotic has been developed in collaboration with Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, Doctor René Westerhausen, and Magne Gudmundsen.

Test yourself

You can download iDichotic from the Store. The listening test takes three minutes and tells you which side of your brain is most active in language processing. Most people primarily use the left side of the brain, but for a minority (including many left-handed people) the right side of the brain is more involved in language processing. In addition, the test measures attention when the task is to focus on one ear at a time. You can send your results to the researchers if you want. iDichotic is currently available for iOS devices.

Explore further: Cannabis use mimics cognitive weakness that can lead to schizophrenia

More information: Front. Psychology, 07 February 2013. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00042
"Right on all occasions?" – On the feasibility of laterality research using a smartphone dichotic listening application
Josef J. Bless, René Westerhausen, Joanne Arciuli, Kristiina Kompus, Magne Gudmundsen and Kenneth Hugdahl.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.