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ADHD and Brown Noise

adhd

Science or Nonsense?

It seems counter intuitive that noise would help you sleep or pay more attention to homework. However, many studies have found that for people with ADHD, noise is a possible tool that may help them pay attention. It may even help with sleep.

While this blog will address brown noise specifically, the reader should note that there are many types of noise colors.

If you remember your grade school science class, you likely remember the mnemonic ROYGBIV for the colors of the spectrum. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. You can think of noise in a color spectrum to remember how each noise sounds.

The noise spectrum is used in a variety of fields including audio engineering and electronics. The spectrum of noise colors, put simply, means that each noise has a specifically identifiable sound to the human ear and has a specific audio profile.

 In the spectrum of noise we have:

  • White
  • Pink
  • Brown
  • Blue
  • Violet
  • Grey

Brown noise has elicited attention in social media recently as advocates have testified that it helps them sleep or pay attention. But is there any scientific basis for these claims?

There are two prominent theories that are associated with ADHD. The first, and most recent, is called low cortical arousal. It is thought that the brain’s frontal cortex (cortical)  governs attention and behavior. Like the executive of a company, the frontal cortex governs how much attention you pay and where it’s directed. This is termed, Executive Function. If the frontal cortex is under-active, executive function can’t regulate the brain and distraction rules. When the frontal cortex is active, it can take control of the brain to maximize attention and regulate behavior. It is theorized that brown noise may “wake-up” the under-stimulated brain and let executive function rule.

The second theory of brain function is termed, optimal arousal theory. Put simply, the brain’s optimal performance depends on its optimal arousal. This rather intuitive construct is similar to Goldilocks and the Three Bears; your brain won’t function well if it’s “too hot” (over excited) or if it’s “too cold” (bored or tired). Arousal must be “just right” for optimal performance. It is theorized that brown noise may place the brain in just the right state for optimal performance.

Is it science or nonsense? Most of the studies done on noise and ADHD have small sample sizes and while some positive results were obtained (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17683456/), it’s not scientifically proven.

So, it’s not a cure. Additionally, some children with ADHD appear to have brains that are over-aroused. Thus, it’s possible that their attention might become worse with brown noise.

Is it a tool? Perhaps. There seems to be no harm in using noise as a tool. However, it should not be played loudly which may damage one’s hearing.

Could it help you fall asleep? Possibly. To find out, you may want to visit this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise to hear the noises and see if one of them is useful for you, your child, or clients. If a noise can help them sleep, great. If it helps them finish homework on time, even better. However, to get to the root of the problem, you need to improve executive function. Visit Play Attention to get a free consultation as it is the #1 tool to improve executive function in children and adults.