Study: iPhone app for speech laterality just as reliable as lab brain tests

A new study has found that an iPhone app is a valid method for administering a widely used laboratory-based speech laterality test, according to a Feb. 8 announcement from Norway's University of Bergen.

The consonant-vowel dichotic listening test on the mobile device takes only three minutes and reveals which side of a person's brain is most active in language processing. 

"Most psychological experimentation takes place in laboratories aiming to maximize experimental control; however, this creates artificial environments that are not representative of real-life situations," said researcher Josef Bless, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Bergen, in the announcement. "Since cognitive processes usually take place in noisy environments, they should also be tested in these contexts. The recent advent of smartphone technology provides an ideal medium for such testing."

Launched in Apple's App Store in 2011, the free app is called iDichotic and has been downloaded by more than 1,000 people, roughly half of whom sent their test results to the researchers' database. In a published study, university researchers analyzed the first 167 results they received and compared them with the results of 76 individuals tested in laboratories in Norway and Australia.

"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," said Bless.

University researchers have also developed a special version of the iDichotic app for schizophrenic patients who suffer from auditory hallucinations. The app aids patients in better focusing their attention on shutting out any external voices.

In related news, Harvard University researchers last year created a smartphone app that could dramatically reduce the symptoms of patients with anxiety disorders. The app was studied in a 338-patient trial, and used a psychological approach called "cognitive bias modification." Through a simple, repetitive exercise, the app helps people to re-condition their brains to block out negative thoughts that make them anxious in certain situations.

For more:
- read the article
- read the study abstract