TikTok illusion gives viewers unexplainable anxiety: 'What have you done to my brain?'

Katie Mather

If you’re looking for some unexplainable anxiety, look no further than this TikTok showcasing the Shepard Illusion.

Michael McBride is a content creator who runs the TikTok account idea.soup, which has bite-sized facts and information about all sorts of topics, from an explainer on how air conditioners work to the origin of the word “quarantine.”

McBride’s most popular video, which is at almost 6.5 million views, is likely to give you a headache though.

The video starts out with, “There’s no way this is a loop” and transitions to McBride listening to a series of tones.

“This is an auditory illusion,” McBride writes in the video. “The sound isn’t actually getting higher, but your brain thinks it is, which is why you’re probably thinking…” and then the TikTok loops back to the opening statement, “There’s no way this is a loop.”

When listening to the tones over and over, the TikTok does seem like it’s on a loop and that the tone just keeps getting higher and higher. In reality, the tones are not getting higher, it’s the same sequence of notes, and the illusion can be applied to the tone decreasing in pitch too.

“Will it ever sound high enough to satisfy what my brain wants???? I’ve watched it for too long,” one person commented on the TikTok.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF,” another replied.

“What have you done to my brain???” a third commenter wrote.

Roger Shepard published a paper on the topic in 1967 explaining how and why this happens. Each octave being played is created with tones that can create ambiguity and confusion when listened to in succession. Based on the context of how we’re listening to these tones, our brain hears each repeated tone as being either higher or lower than the one before.

The Shepard Illusion or Shepard Tone is frequently compared to an “auditory barbershop pole” — a famous optical illusion that makes the brain think that the stripes are moving either up or down rather than around the pole.

Our brains’ reaction to the Shepard Illusion or Shepard Tone is utilized by song makers and movie producers all the time. A popular example being the sounds the Batpod makes, the motorcycle featured in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“I used the concept of the Shepard Tone to make the sound appear to continually rise in pitch,” Richard King, the sound designer and supervising sound editor told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “When played on a keyboard, it gives the illusion of greater and greater speed; the pod appears unstoppable.”

In regards to the comments on McBride’s TikTok about certain listeners feeling anxiety, that’s also true. Since the Shepard illusion is used a lot to drive suspense in movies, songs or video games, some people subconsciously connect that feeling with suspense when hearing it.

If you’re (literally) looking for more illusions, try to figure out what’s going on in this optical illusion.

More from In The Know:

How you perceive time reveals a lot about you

Try this Henné Organics lip exfoliator for more kissable lips

15 of our favorite retailers that are selling fabric face masks

Instant Pot also makes an air fryer and right now, it’s over 50 percent off

The post This auditory illusion is going to make your brain cry appeared first on In The Know.

More From

  • Woman with Down syndrome outlines discrimination in powerful TikTok

    Charlotte Woodward is a woman with Down syndrome. She also works as a community outreach associate for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). So, as she explained to In The Know, the issues she discussed in her now-viral video were “very personal”. The clip details the institutional discrimination that people with Down syndrome face throughout their lives. “Things about having Down syndrome that don’t make sense,” Woodward says at the start of the clip. She then goes on to give several examples. The first of those: being paid sub-minimum wage. Another issue? Penalties for getting married . As Woodward points out in the clip, people with Down syndrome can lose eligibility for government benefits (like Medicaid) if they have a spouse. Woodward’s video, which now has more than 2.8 million views, spawned hundreds of comments reacting to the “appalling” info. “I didn’t know any of this. Thank you for spreading awareness,” one commenter wrote. Woodward, meanwhile, said the experience of going viral has been “mind-blowing”

  • Evil genius combines the most hated parts of the holidays into a new candy

    Brach’s clearly hasn’t gotten the memo that its candy corn starts an annual war between fans and people who don’t know what good candy is. because now it’s combined it with another polarizing holiday staple: the Thanksgiving turkey dinner. in case you are regularly craving a turkey feast and can’t wait until November, now’s your chance to treat yourself to a miniature version of the meal. a real-life version of Willy Wonka’s three-course chewing gum (minus the turning into a blueberry part). Turkey dinner-flavored candy corn is available to buy and comes in the following flavors: . Green beans, stuffing, roasted turkey, sweet potato pie, ginger-glazed carrots and cranberry sauce. The reviews overall seem pretty positive (except for the turkey). Other people on Twitter were not as impressed or willing to give it a shot. perhaps Brach’s was just thinking ahead for people who don’t want to learn how to cook a turkey

  • Two-headed tortoise still makes waves 23 years later

    The tortoise can feed on anything from dandelions to wild strawberries.

  • #BlackWomensEqualPayDay: TikTok shows why gender pay gap isn’t the same for women of color

    August 13 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The gender wage gap is real and within that even more racial disparities exist.