Music Designed for Brains: Focus, Anxiety, and Music

Coach Julien Adler is a delight, and he's sent us something special this morning.

Daniel Clark, the CEO of just did an AMA on how he and his team were given a grant by the National Science Foundation to explore the use of artificial intelligence to compose music that changes specific brain activity.

"In particular, our popular Focus music is useful for people who must get through a lot of work without distraction, procrastination, or boredom."

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The music project is great because a little help can't hurt.  Music is one of the fastest ways to change the state of the nervous system, and that's a great tool to have at hand - especially since it's so benign and easy to try.

This AMA interview was skillfully timed around the controversial Netflix documentary on Adderall abuse called Take Your Pills.  Many felt this documentary failed to describe what ADHD is really like beyond stereotyped attention regulation issues.  The film doesn't address strengths such as that many with ADHD have the ability to hyperfocus without the use of medication when interested in an activity.

It is always exciting to see anything that offers an alternative to controlled substances that have an increasing rate of abuse.  One commenter on the AMA said it very well.

"Ive got a love hate relationship with stims. On one hand they're just about the only effective treatment I've come across, on the other I get hammered with side effects. I wish there was another way so I don't need to be doing this my entire life."

What is absolutely true about pharmaceutical tools is pills don't teach skills

There are also more symptoms involved with ADHD than just attention regulation.  And, a few tunes are probably not going to make the attention, temporal, emotional, or energy issues that might come with ADHD better in the long run without skilled supervision and a good coach.

There are many things to try for people with clinically significant issues diagnosed as ADHD and those who just want a boost from time to time.  What is absolutely true about pharmaceutical tools is pills don't teach skills.  Music can, however, be layered with medications with minimal risks.

Here's one song that was studied for relief of anxiety.  For the track "Weightless", Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to design music that Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International found to reduce anxiety by a whopping 65%.  For people who are having trouble switching off the ADHD chatter during the day or are having difficulty falling asleep, there is a ten-hour version on YouTube.

“It’s not the cure-all, it’s not a pill that just fixes everything … but boy it sure helps.”

We also liked this study from Professor David Barney at BYU on how music improved engagement in PE classes

'I’ve found music to be very magical,” Barney said. “It’s not the cure-all, it’s not a pill that just fixes everything … but boy it sure helps.”  His research on music was recently published in the International Journal of Physical Education and shows that fourth grade students are 5.87 times more likely to enjoy P.E. when music is playing. For the boy or girl who dreads going to gym class, 5.87 is a number that can make a world of difference. A dodgeball to the face might not seem so bad with Taylor Swift telling you to shake it off in the background.'

Which songs change your tune? 

Let us know in the comments how you use music, what songs work for you, or what experiments you're trying with sound.