The human brain is complex, but it can be tricked.
We’ve blogged before about optical illusions, tactile illusions and also The Rubber Hand Illusion - all examples that give an interesting insight into the disconnect that can exist between perception and reality.
Now we want to share new and exciting research that shows that the brain can be tricked into thinking that the body is working harder than it is - just by listening to the sound of a fast heartbeat.
Researchers Pierpaolo Iodice (University of Normandy, France) and Giuseppina Porciello (University of Rome, Italy) set up an experiment with eighteen volunteers riding exercise bikes while wearing headphones.
The cycling programs varied but the riders all heard the sound of a beating heart through their headphones. In some cases, the heartbeat was slow, other times it was fast. After riding, each volunteer was asked how hard they felt they had exercised while riding the bike.
The researchers found that the volunteers judged themselves as working harder than they actually were when they listened to a fast heartbeat. They conclude that it’s possible to trick the brain into thinking that the body worked harder.
Interestingly, the opposite was not true. When listening to the slower heartbeat the participants did not feel like they'd worked less hard.
The researchers suggest that the reason the brain refuses to believe a slower heartbeat is because of ancient survival techniques. When humans had to rely on physical strength and endurance to hunt or escape danger, it would have been disastrous to run out of energy just because our brains thought we were not working hard enough.
Here at doppel, we're interested in heartbeat illusions because of the part they play in the doppel wristband. When you feel a slower heartbeat on the inside of your wrist, you will begin to feel calmer - even if you're in a situation that you usually find stressful. As slower heartbeats are associated with calm moments, like when you're just about to fall asleep, your brain perceives this slow rhythm and sends a signal to your brain/body system that everything is okay. It's like listening to slow music or stroking a slowly purring cat.
You can find out more on our Science page.