When Music and Science Collide: Tailoring Music with Biometrics

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-20 06:11

Is relaxation just a playlist away?
[Photo by Haley Phelps]

Music and science will provide you with the exact piece of music that can relax you.

Have you ever had to continuously scroll through your Spotify playlist to look for exactly the right music to relax you? Sometimes, it can be hard to find the right kind of music. A certain playlist or song may be too fast or too slow, or maybe it just doesn't fit your mood.

Like nearly everything else, there's an app for that. A start-up company called Sync Project has developed an app that can use your biometrics to pick the right ambient music for you. The app, called Unwind, will monitor your heartbeat through an accelerometer on your smartphone. Unwind will then use this information to select the right music for you.

The band Marconi Union will provide the music for the app.

Combining Music and Science

Music has long had a reputation as an effective tool for inducing relaxation. A lot of people have trouble sleeping, which can negatively affect their health. Of course, natural sleep is still the best way to go, which means not using medication in order to fall asleep. Sync Project co-founder Ketki Karanaman claims that music can also have clinical applications, which can benefit people with sleep conditions.

After your listening session, the app will ask you to complete a short survey about how relaxed you feel.

This is an interesting way of combining music and science for something that can be quite useful for a lot of people. Sync Project also plans to measure the biometrics of attendees at a concert by composer Max Richter. Willing participants will wear ŌURA rings that can monitor heart rate and temperature. The participants will have to wear the rings both at the concert and at home so the researchers can compare results.

The results from this experiment will give Sync Project insights into the role of music in inducing sleep and relaxation.

How Scientific is the App?

However, there are some who criticize Sync Project's methods in combining music and science to induce sleep and relaxation. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist, says that music can't do much more than relax our brains. Thus, for people who have clinical problems with falling asleep, music isn't an alternative for actual treatment.

Kevin Morgan, director of the Clinical Sleep Research Unit at Loughborough University, also has his doubts about the project. He says that if a selection of music can ease people to sleep, then it's unlikely that these people actually have clinical problems with sleep.

Morgan is also doubtful of Sync Project's research methods. According to him, people who participate in the studies are people who like listening to music. If you like listening to music, then it must be because music is already mentally and emotionally beneficial. Thus, if music soothes you when you're not feeling well, it's not really a significant effect.

These, of course, are valid criticisms. However, if you'd like to check the app out, you can certainly do so. You can see for yourself if Sync Project has indeed effectively combined music and science to help induce healthy sleep.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!