Marko Ahtisaari, the head of product design at Nokia resigned from his position back in September 2013. Acquiring the Finnish company a few years ago, Microsoft and Ahitsaari, the son of a former president of Finland, decided it was time to look for his next startup. Shortly after joining the MIT Media Lab, Ahtisaari was introduced by the Lab’s director, Joi Ito, to Ketki Karanam, a biologist who was studying how music affects the brain. Naturally, Ahtisaari was pretty much interested; growing up playing the violin and later studied music composition at Columbia University.
Karanam demonstrated to Ahtisaari that there was an increasing body of evidence according to imaging studies that exhibited what happens to the brain when it is exposed to music. What happens to the brain is literally similar to when people take psycho-stimulants, or in a simpler term, when people take drugs.
For Ahtissari, this pointed that music might, at least in theory, complement or even take over the effects that pharmaceuticals had on people’s neurology. For example, few studies conducted showed that patients with Parkinson’s disease improved their gait when exposed to songs with a right beat pattern.
According to another clinical study, it suggested that music could be used to manage pain for hernia patients after surgery. A group of patients was exposed to an hour of music coupled with the standard post-surgery care, and they were allowed to self-administer morphine
“The group exposed to music used only a one-third of the amount of morphine in comparison to a control group who didn’t listen to music,” Ahtisaari says. He also further added that everyone should be listening to music after an operation.
With the idea that music could be doubled as a medicine, Ahtisaari, along with Karanam with Yadid Ayzenberg, a PhD student that the same lab, started Sync Project in the summer of 2015 to accomplish just that.
Currently, the Sync Project is analyzing more than 10 million playlists on Spotify tagged to a particular health-related word, like “relaxation”, to create an outline of the characteristics of the music from the tempo, beat salience, to timbre played. A Slack bot is also developed to deliver a personalized playlist every morning to more than 400 teams around the world. In certain cases, Sync also collects biometric sensor data, like heart rate from its users to get a deeper understanding on how their physiology interacts to the music. “Conclusively, we will be applying machine learning to assist in personalizing music therapeutic interventions for a particular health outcome,” Ahtisaari says.
Ahtisaari also envisioned another type of music therapeutic that revolves around generative music. Just recently on March 1, the Sync Project is launching a collaboration with Marconi Union, a British electronic ambient music band who released the single “Weightless”, a viral success that has led it to became known widely as the most relaxing tune ever.
“This new experience with Marconi Union is a new kind of music,” Ahtisaari says. “In short, it’s an AI-generated music that’s tuned to your heart rate. Together with that data as input, Unwind will then generate a personalized soundtrack to aid you to relax before bedtime.”
Similar to therapy sessions, music has long been used to calm and relax patients and the same method is slowly but steadily crafting it’s way into not just after-surgery operation but to other parts of healing as well.
Music can even help you to study better, study says and it helps you sleep better as well, so if you’re going through a hard patch or just needed some time to relax, music certainly helps in some ways if not many. Take a look at these headphones that will provide you with little to no distractions from the noises outside, so you can actually concentrate and relax your mind with peaceful and relaxing musics.
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