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 brain
function. 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 syllable seems clearest. The test indicates which
side of the brain is most active during language processing," Bless
Josef Bless is working on a PhD in psychology at the
University of Bergen. 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 brain
The iPhone 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.
How the research was done
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 laboratory tests. This means that
smartphones can be used as a tool for psychological testing, 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
ofiDichotic for patients with schizophrenia who suffer from auditory
hallucinations (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
The app iDichotic has been developed in collaboration with
Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, Doctor René Westerhausen, and Magne Gudmundsen.
You can download iDichotic from the App 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. iDichoticis currently
available for iOS devices.
Visit the iDichotic website