Tag Archives: cognitive ehancement

How to Achieve the Flow State with Drumming

In this video, I describe the state of flow and how to use drumming to induce and enhance it. Flow exists in the transition between the alpha and theta states of consciousness. A rhythm at 7.4 beats-per-second is a great tempo to induce flow.

Tempo is only part of the equation. Flow is characterized by a deactivation of the pre-frontal cortex (a phenomenon called “transient hypofrontality”).

To achieve this state of flow, the rhythms need to be variable enough to entrain the brainwaves to the 7.4 Hz  pace, while not so complex or variable that they activate the brain. This video shows examples of rhythms that are too repetitive (not able to entrain), too complex (activating), and musically variable (just right to entrain and induce flow).

Note: You don’t need to play the drum. All you need to do is listen. If you choose to play, the 7.4 bps tempo is achieved by setting your metronome to 1/4 note equals 111 beats-per-minute and playing 1/16th notes (you play four drumming beats for every click of the metronome).

Learn how to play the drum for the brain at: drumhealing.com
To try my music for flow for free: brainshiftradio.com

How to Boost Your Brain with Fast, Complex Drumming Rhythms

Activating the brain for memory and cognitive enhancement can be done two ways:

1. Play pleasingly variable patterns with an unpredictable, yet musical quality at 8 beats per second. This has an immediate activating effect and, coupled with progressively more complex patterns over a series of recordings, can provide long-term cognitive enhancements. This is the approach we use for the REI Custom Programs.

2. Play various tempos all within the alpha range of 8-12 beats per second (bps). Musically, 8-12 bps is 120-180 beats per minute when playing 16th notes and one beat of the metronome is a 1/4 note. This means that you are playing 4 drumming beats for each click of the metronome. This approach is the key to the Brain Boost category on brainshiftradio.com.

I end this video with a cognitive enhancement drumming session. Let it play quietly in the background and see how mentally clear you feel afterward.

Check out a free 14-day trial on https://www.brainshiftradio.com to explore more music to boost your brain.

Learn to play the drums for healing at http://www.drumhealing.com

Explore the REI Custom Program at: https://www.stronginstitute.com/rei-custom-program/

Autism Daily Newscast Reviews My Different Drummer Book

Autism Daily Newscast reviewMy book about the development and practice of REI, Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism, was recently reviewed by Autism Daily Newscast.

Here is an excerpt:

For anyone with an interest in the therapeutic aspect of music this is a gem of a book.  For parents wanting to explore different approaches to help their children it will make interesting reading.   As a lay person who just enjoys playing the odd CD I found myself a little overloaded with music and technology theory and was more interested in reading about how following a lifelong passion such as drumming can lead to the most unexpected places and discoveries.

Read the entire review here

You can learn more about the book here

Free REI / Brain Shift Radio Holiday Audio Downloads

Every year I offer some free audio downloads of my music. These downloads are from Brain Shift Radio based on mixes created by the BSR member community. Click the image to download.

I hope you enjoy them.


Big Round Calm Audio DownloadBig Round Calm. This track couples a big, round ambient track with a 7.8 beat-per-second Gonga to calm your nervous system.

Warm Calm > Focus Audio Download

Warm Calmed Focus. This track uses a warm ambient pad mixed with an Udu drum accelerating from 8 to 10 beats-per-second to calm your brain then dial in focus.

Deep Sleep Audio DownloadDeep Sleep. This mix pairs our deepest, richest ambient track with a Gonga, played at 7.6 beats-per-second, to transition you to sleep quickly.

Instructions for downloading to mobile devices:

Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod)

Download Documents by Readdle from the Apple App store (it’s free).

Once you download the app, please follow these steps:

  1. Open the Documents app
  2. Choose Settings (the little gear icon in the upper left of the app).
  3. Choose Browser from the options.
  4. Under User Agent choose Google Chrome.
  5. Close the settings window (tap Close in the upper left of the window).
  6. Choose Browser from the main menu on the left
  7. Click the download file images above (one at a time). A Save File window will appear.
  8. Tap Done when the Save File window opens. You can monitor the download by tapping on the Documents button to the right of the web address window (this is the down-pointing arrow).
  9. When file is downloaded it will appear in the Documents folder located in Documents option from the main menu. This menu is accessed by tapping the icon with the three horizontal lines in the upper left of the app window.
  10. If you want to put your track on iCloud simply drag the file into the iCloud Menu option. It is now on your iCloud account. Please note: if you want the file to go to iCloud by default choose this option from the Setting menu when you are changing the User Agent in the Browser options menu described in Step 3 above).choose View File. Again, a new browser tab will open and the track will play.

Android devices (phones and tablets)

Go to Google play and download ES File Explorerhttps://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.estrongs.android.pop

To download the audio files:

  1. Click the download file images above (one at a time).
  2. Tap Download. The track may begin playing. If it is Tap Pause to Stop playback.
  3. Let it download.
  4. Once it is downloaded, open the ES File Exporter app.
  5. Choose Search from the menu and type in Download.
  6. Click the Download folder to expand and you’ll see the track.
  7. Click the track and then select the ES media player to play the track. I suggest checking the box that says “Set as default” so you won’t get this screen again.
  8. Open the ES File Exporter app and click the track name each time you want to listen.

Drumming for Focus: An excerpt from my Different Drummer book

This is an excerpt from a chapter in my book, Different Drummer, exploring my inspiration to use drumming to help with focusing.

You can find other excerpts in the list to the right.

####

I’m a drummer and a tapper. I drum on everything. All the time. It drives many people crazy. I always thought that my need to drum was just because of my obsession with music and rhythm; but as I was doing some research for an upcoming study on ADHD, I discovered that I’m not alone in my need to tap. 

“Have you ever heard of ‘fidget-to-focus’?” David asked as we were talking about our study. David was a neuropsychologist. He worked at a progressive clinic in San Diego and he was also a drummer. Although ADHD wasn’t his specialty, he was excited about exploring whether my drumming can impact attention. We were planning a study using a Continuous Performance Test (CPT) to collect quantitative data. 

“No, what is it?” I replied.

“It’s based on a study done years ago on coping strategies people with ADHD develop to help them focus. This study was exploring why it was believed that ADHD was considered a childhood disorder that people grow out of as they reach adulthood. It turns out that people don’t necessarily grow out of ADHD. Instead, many people develop strategies to help them function better. The ADHD is still there.”

“So what does fidgeting have to do with it?”

“Well, it seems that fidgeting is one of the most common strategies people with ADHD use to keep their attention. Most are simple things like rocking, shaking a leg, playing with a pen or pencil, anything that uses a motor movement to keep them engaged.”

“Like drumming.”

“Perhaps. Do you suppose there is a higher prevalence of drummers with ADHD than other musicians?”

“I don’t know. That’s an interesting idea, though. Most of the drummers I know are kind of like me. In fact, I don’t know any drummers who are not at least a little distracted, impulsive or hyperactive.”

“That would be an interesting study to do someday. But for now, if we consider fidgeting to help with attention, musical or not, perhaps the rhythm impacts the brain in a positive way.”

“It seems like the case to me, but what does fidgeting mean for our study?”

“Probably nothing, but maybe we can use the concept of fidget-to-focus as a basis for our hypothesis. Didn’t you say that you started developing your therapy from your experiences playing the drums and feeling more focused?”

“Yes. I guess that would be like fidgeting-to-focus. Only I wasn’t doing it solely to help focus. The drumming exercises were homework. And I wasn’t just focusing better while I drummed, I felt more focused afterward. The residual focusing effect was the basis of exploring the drumming for focus. My goal was to see if listening to syncopated drumming rhythms provided the same focusing effect as playing my homework exercises.”

I described to David that one of my challenges while attending the Musician’s Institute was being able to keep up with the pace of my classes. The most difficult for me, and many percussionists, was music theory and composition. I spent a lot of time analyzing music, digging deep into the structures that were being used in rock and jazz music (to this day I can’t listen to the Beatles and enjoy their music for what it is. I always find myself remembering the many hours spent dissecting their songs). As someone with ADHD, focusing on the mundane analysis of music theory and composition was nearly impossible. Contrasted with this was my favorite class, sight-reading, where it was always interesting and, as a result, easy for me to focus on.

Because I wanted to avoid music theory and instead work on sight-reading, I decided that I would reward myself for my theory and composition work by doing my sight-reading exercises before going back to some of the mundane work I was assigned. As someone who was somewhat impulsive and hated delayed gratification, I quickly decided to reverse this plan. Instead of theory first, I would allow myself to spend a half hour or so doing my sight-reading exercises then dig into theory for 30 minutes, followed by another bit of sight-reading. 

The reason I preferred sight-reading was that I was able to play continually unique patterns. One basic exercise consisted of reading rhythm patterns from a book on syncopation, called Progressive Steps to Syncopation For the Modern Drummer, by Ted Reed. The patterns were random combinations of 8th and 16th notes written across the page, page after page throughout the book.

My assignment was always to choose a page and read it in varying ways. Left to right, top to bottom, bottom to top, right to left, diagonally, whatever. The goal was to always be reading one or two measures ahead of where I was playing. This got me accustomed to reading ahead, therefore when confronted with a new piece of music, I could read, comprehend, and interpret it right away and convincingly perform it the way the composer intended. I loved these exercises. They gave me a rush.

Imagine my surprise when I also discovered that these exercises made doing my theory and composition work easier. After 30 minutes of sight-reading, I’d switch to theory and, to my amazement, could focus. The analysis was easier and the musical structures started making sense. I could even begin to appreciate the simple predictability of the Beatles’ music (especially since I never really liked listening to it – still don’t).

And analyzing more complex music of some of the progressive jazz-fusion bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra or Weather Report became rote. My grades for the semesters after discovering this sight-reading-then-theory pattern confirmed what I felt. I was focusing better and grasping complex concepts better.

 

 

REI and Sound Sensitivities: An excerpt from my Different Drummer book

This is an excerpt from a chapter in my book, Different Drummer, exploring the use of drumming to help with sensory processing.

You can find other excerpts in the list to the right.

“Brandon can hear the Fed Ex truck coming from miles away,” his mother, Jenny, told me. “He has super hearing. On the flip side, he is easily overstimulated by the noise. It’s good that we live in the country, otherwise he’d probably be screaming all the time. Is this something you can help with?”

“A lot of my clients have sound sensitivities. So, I think I can help,” I said. Brandon’s sound sensitivities remind me of Steven, a child from my study at a public elementary school. Theresa, one of the teachers helping with the study, had warned me that if I played my drum in the small room where I had successfully played for every other kid, Steven would run out of the room screaming. He didn’t. In fact, he was less bothered by sounds after listening to a recording of me playing for two months. So I was confident that I could help Brandon. This is why I was willing to drive forty miles to his home in a tiny town on the St. Croix River in Wisconsin.

I arrived and Brandon was standing on the porch, dancing excitedly on his toes. 

“Hi Brandon. Do you like drums?” I asked.

Nothing.

I handed him a case and had him follow me into the house.

We went into the living room and I started to set up my equipment when a plane flew overhead. Brandon’s hands flew up to his ears and he started rocking and groaning. Jenny grabbed him and held him, soothingly. I sat by my drum and watched as Brandon reacted to the sound of the airplane. It was flying low and it took a while for it to get far enough away for Brandon to calm down.

“Does the airplane scare you, Brandon?” I asked. 

He looked at me and didn’t say a word, though I thought I detected a slight nod.

“The planes don’t come very often,” Jenny told me. “There is a small light aircraft terminal a few miles from here and sometimes a plane will land or take off over us. When it happens Brandon gets anxious.”

“Do any other sounds bother him?” I asked.

“Anything sudden or unexpected will do it. He also hates the vacuum, lawn mower, and hair dryer.” 

“How about loud noises? Are they a problem in general or is it only unexpected or droning noises?”

Not all loud noises bother him. He can handle loud music. He actually prefers his music loud. I think it’s mostly sounds that carry on.”

I turned to Brandon. “Do you mind if I play the drum?” I asked. 

“Brandon, why don’t you sit down next to Mr. Jeff,” said Jenny.

Brandon came over to me and sat as I started to play. As you might expect, I started slowly and quietly, using mostly muted tones with some soft open tones and bass punches thrown in as I built the volume. I wanted to see how loud I could play before he began getting uncomfortable. 

For about five minutes I increased the volume and added slap tones, which are the loudest most piercing sounds this drum can make. By the end of these five minutes, I was playing as loudly and intensely as I ever had. Brandon sat next to me watching my hands hit the drum. He was not bothered in the slightest. 

This has been my experience with the live drumming for people who are extremely sound sensitive. In every case, they could tolerate what I was playing and none showed any signs that they were uncomfortable. No covering of their ears, no screaming or crying, no recoiling or shying away. 

This is often not the case with a recording of the drumming. If the volume is too loud for someone with a sound sensitivity, he will cover his ears, complain or leave the room. But with the live drumming, this has never happened.

So, knowing that my drumming wouldn’t bother him, I settled down a bit and focused on playing rhythms that I have used for other kids who had similar sound sensitivities. I played a series of rhythms with more subtle differences between the lower and higher notes, creating more of a droning patter. Brandon shifted in his seat. I increase the repetitive nature of the rhythm and Brandon shift again, this time leaning away from me.

More repetition and Brandon stood up and left the room. I increased the volume and, as Brandon brought his hands to his ears, I dropped the volume and played a five beat rhythm heavy on bass tones. These rhythms and textures were in large contrast to what I had been playing. Brandon dropped his hands from his ears.

Next, I switched to a 73-beat rhythm that I played once before when a young girl was covering her ears as a plane flew overhead. This rhythm settled her down. And now, I wanted to see if it would relax Brandon as well. Testing a rhythm this way is what allowed me to develop the databases of rhythms related to symptoms. 

After a minute or so with this rhythm, Brandon was next to me again. I eased off on the volume a bit and added a few more muted tones to the pattern. Brandon sat down. I added some more bass tones and played for several minutes before Brandon put his hands on the side of the drum.

It is common for kids to place their hands on the drum when I play a combination of bass and muted tones. The bass is deep and resonant. And it’s inviting. The physical sensations of the drum are palpable. You feel it in your chest.

Brandon held onto the drum as I played for several more minutes. Then I stopped. He continued holding the drum. I tapped out a simple bass pulse and asked if he wanted to join me. His hand slowly moved from the side of the drum to its head. He held his hand on the head as I kept pounding the bass pulse.

Soon he tapped in time with me. I kept the bass pulse going with the right hand and with my left added simple syncopations encouraging him to keep playing with me. We played together for a while before I stopped again. His hand remained on the drum for a minute or so. Then he lifted his hand, got up, and walked out of the room.

Satisfied with the session, I packed up and left. I made a tape for him and sent it to his mother the next day. I also asked her to specifically note how often and how severely he reacted to sounds in his environment.

I checked in with her after four weeks.

“Brandon is much calmer than he used to be. He is less bothered by the lawn mower and vacuum cleaner. The other day I forgot he was in his room when I turned on the vacuum and went down the hall with it. When I had done this in the past he would come screaming out of his room with his hands over his ears and run outside. This time he stayed in his room and kept playing.

“I was surprised because after I finished vacuuming I went into his room to get his dirty laundry and there he was, playing on the floor. I asked if he heard the vacuum and he said he did. I asked, ‘didn’t it bother you?’ and he said, ‘yeah’. I asked why he didn’t leave the room and he said he was busy playing. I was shocked because any other time and he would have been crying and screaming. This is just one example of how he seems much less bothered by the noises that used to drive him crazy.”

Different Drummer Book, Excerpt #2

Note: You can find the previous excerpt here

Chapter 1, Part 2

“Where are we going?” I asked, as I climbed into the waiting car.

“To meet a little boy”, Lloyd said. We were on one of our many “field trips” where Lloyd would show me a side to drumming that I was unfamiliar with as a player of popular music.

Over the previous six months Lloyd had taught me the traditional rhythms he and his ancestors had used for centuries. He taught me their origins and was beginning to initiate me into the healing aspects of drumming. These healing powers, he described, were based on a connection to the sacred and tied to behavior.  I’d learned to trust Lloyd and, though I was uncomfortable with some of the spiritual connections he talked about, I was traveling a path that many drummers had followed before me and I was enthralled by all I was experiencing. This field trip was my first glimpse into a world where drumming was used to affect behavior.

We drove along for about fifteen minutes before Lloyd said, “Remember during the healing ritual last week when the young woman starting acting out, throwing her body and flailing around?” He asked.

I nodded. Thinking back on my first real initiation into age-old drum-healing ceremonies. In this ceremony we drummed while a priestess (Manbo) invoked Orishas (spirits) to facilitate the healing of a woman with an illness (a process I describe in Chapter 3).

“In our world when someone is acting outside of the community’s norms they are said to be possessed. It’s our job as drummers to help people keep clear of possession. We do this by using the power of the group, through celebration and ritual, to keep the community cohesive and to see the signs that someone is not acting right. Then if we observe this or a community member alerts us to inappropriate behavior, we intervene. That’s what we’ll be doing today.”

We drove along for another fifteen minutes before Lloyd said, “We’re going to meet a boy who is aggressive, often violent, doesn’t follow directions, doesn’t communicate, won’t be touched and screams when asked to come out of his shell.”

“So, how are we going to help?” I asked. “I know we can influence behavior by drumming, but this sounds like a mental disorder, not some spirit thing.”

“Well, it is.” He answered. “In Shango we frame any acting out or non-conforming behavior as having a spiritual cause. This is a holdover from a time when we didn’t have the language to describe these things in the way we do today. This is just another way a viewing what is now considered psychological or mental health issues.

Think if it this way, when you’re feeling down sometimes you may say: ‘I don’t feel like myself’. In village culture your loved ones may say that you are suffering from a illness of spirit. It’s the same thing. And it doesn’t matter from our perspective. We do the same work either way.”

“What’s that,” I asked.

“We play the drum,” he said. And that was the last he said until we arrived at our destination.

We were in an affluent part of town in west LA. The house was large and imposing and was entered through a locked gate. There were 2 beautiful foreign luxury cars parked out front and the views of the LA basin and Pacific Ocean were astounding. This was in large contrast to the run-down church we played at just a week earlier in San Pedro’s shipping district.

We were met by a familiar looking, stunning black woman. She gave Lloyd a hug and said, “Nice to see you again, Jeff. Are you ready for another initiation?” Hearing her voice I finally recognized her. She was the manbo!

“Um, yeah”, I mumbled, not sure how to respond.

She guided us into the house where a young family was seated in the sunroom. There was a boy of about 6 sitting on his knees on the floor pushing a Lego truck back and forth while rocking and humming to himself. The man and woman stood and we all said hello. The boy continued to sit, absorbed in his ritual.

“Ty”, the woman’s said to the child. “Say hello to master Lloyd. You remember him, don’t you?”

No response.

Lloyd leaned down and touched the boys shoulder. “Hello, Ty. It’s nice to see you again. Do you mind if I play my drum for you?” he said.

Again, no response. No one seemed surprised by this and no one forced the boy to engage. Lloyd simply asked me to get the drums and set them up by two chairs. I did as he asked, while he quietly chatted with the parents.

Once set up, Lloyd sat behind two drums (barrel-shaped drums that originate from Cuba, a conga and a tumba) and began playing. Slowly, quietly he centered on muted tones seemingly being careful not to startle the child. I sat and watched.

Lloyd played quietly for a while then slowly he increased the volume and intensity, adding some slap tones and bass punches to the mix. I noticed that once in a while the boy looked over toward Lloyd. Then after 10 minutes or so the boy got up.

He moved around somewhat aimlessly for a few minutes until he went over and sat on his mother’s lap. Lloyd continued playing but toned down the rhythms a bit. The child sat rocking and humming against his mother while she held him. She began to cry.

####

I sat looking at Stacey as she sat contentedly on the floor still playing with a toy. Her mother returned from the kitchen, her phone call over, settled onto the couch next to me, and smiled as she watched Stacey.

“I’ve not seen her this calm in a long time,” she whispered in my ear after a while.

I noddod and took it as a sign that I should call this an end to our first session. I slowed my rhythms and progressively dropped the volume until my drumming faded away.

I’ve come full circle, I thought. Just a decade earlier I was in a similar situation when Lloyd showed me for the first time what it meant to calm an anxious disconnected child with fast, complex drumming rhythms when he played for Ty.

#### 

“Hello, Ty,” Lloyd said as we entered the house. Ty was spinning around the entry eyes at the ceiling two stories above. Ty offered no response. Lloyd motioned for me to go to the sunroom and to set up the drums where we had the day before.

“Ty seems a little more settled every day,” I heard his mother tell Lloyd. “Last night he went to bed without a meltdown. After his bath he climbed into bed and sat quietly while a read to him. Two books and I turned out the light. He slept until 5:30 this morning. We actually got some rest, too.”

She was excited and Lloyd seemed pleased. I heard him mention something about the purpose of the drumming but I was essentially out of earshot and needed to focus on setting up the drums and preparing the space, so I didn’t catch most of what he said to her. I could tell she was focused on what he was saying, often nodding in agreement and appreciation for what he was describing.

This is our fifth visit to Ty in as many days. This time I came prepared with a pocket tape recorder. I wanted to document what Lloyd played. For the last four days I sat and watched as Lloyd engaged with Ty in a way that  made little sense to me.

I noticed some interesting connections, though. First were the focusing effects I felt when I played certain exercises for my classes at MI and second was the similarity to some of the odd patterns Ralph Humphrey had in his book, Even in the Odds.

This book, along with Joe Porcaro’s Drumset Method and Ted Reed’s Progressive Steps to Syncopation For the Modern Drummer, had become my main references in school. These books energized me and helped me stretch my rhythm muscles in a way that playing common rhythms in traditional time signatures didn’t.

Most music, especially forms of popular music such as rock, blues, folk, jazz, and hip hop, follow common time structures. You essentially have two basic feels: Straight and swing.

So you can either count a measure in music as 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, giving a straight two pulse, or you can count it as 1tu tu 2 tu tu 3 tu tu 4 tu tu, giving it a swing.

From these two basic underlying structures you can cover nearly every song played today.

When I was working as a gigging drummer, I played a lot of pick up gigs, where I showed up at a gig and played with people I often never played with before. As a drummer even if I didn’t know the song, if I knew the feel, I could make my way through the song. If the song swung, I’d swing, if it was straight, I’d played straight. If you can do this and if you focused on the rest of the rhythm section and supported the melody, you’d be golden and more than likely be called back.

This is all to say that the rhythms I was hearing Lloyd play, and found myself playing, were not typical, which was fine with me.

So, as I was playing for people like Stacey and recording and analyzing what I played for them, I was looking at the rhythms and their responses I was remembering what Lloyd said to me one time early on in my studies with him.

“Each rhythm has a purpose”, he said. “You have to find the right rhythm to draw the spirit out. You play the wrong rhythm, or even the right rhythm at the wrong time, and you won’t be able to hear your patient. Know your rhythms and you find your power.”

So, as I was making tapes for people I was looking for pattern in the rhythm and listener response. This was a monumental task and one that was without a roadmap.

I’ve always been really good at seeing patterns and with the two that I had seen so far I wanted to begin looking at them in a more focused and structured way. This led me down the path I’ve been following for over two decades.

####

“Stacey slept in her own room last night,” reported her mother when I showed up at her house two days after first playing for her.  I tried to explore this with her, but Stacey, accosted me at the door.

“Hi Jeff,” Stacey said looking past me and grabbing my drum from my hand. She struggled with the forty-pound case and nearly tripped over me.  Unfazed, she continued talking. “Belle likes books. I like reading books too. Do you like reading books? I like books, Belle likes books.” She said in a flurry.

Stumbling with my drums and recording equipment I said, “umm, yeah, I like to read. Who’s Belle?” I asked.

“Belle likes reading books just like me” she responded, not answering my question, while dropping my drum and grabbing a picture book. I disappeared from her awareness as she was drawn into the pictures and her own world.

I shrugged and continued setting up.

Belle, I later found out, is the main character in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, one of Stacey’s favorite movies, one that she watched over and over and would talk about endlessly if you let her. She created an entire inner world with Belle as her friend.

Stacey was much calmer this day. She was not clinging to her mom, though I could see that she was acutely aware of where her mother was and at one point I saw her tense up when her mother walked toward the kitchen.

I decided this was a good time to start playing so I tapped a tentative rhythm with my fingertips, making sure not to startle her. Her sister, who is two years older and typical, came into the living room and sat down near Stacey to read a book.

They both sat quietly as I played a large variety of rhythms, tempos, and volumes. I played for about twenty minutes and really didn’t see much of a response from Stacey at all. I noted that her mother wasn’t in the room the entire time I played and Stacey didn’t seem to care.

This was fine with me as it wasn’t always about getting a reaction. In this instance I was testing out a bunch of rhythms that I would put on a tape for her to listen to everyday with the goal of helping calm her down when she got anxious and to, hopefully, provide a longer term impact on her anxiety. 

This long-term change concept came directly from my studies with Lloyd and was something I was beginning to explore in a more formalized way. Typically I would meet with someone and play for them while recording the session and having someone take notes about responses to the different rhythms. Then I would come back two or three days later and play again taking notes and recording my session. Then it was back to my studio to analyze the recording and notes and to make a recording of the rhythms that offered the most positive response.

“Goodbye, Stacey” I said as I grabbed my gear and headed out the door. Just like last time she was engrossed in a toy and didn’t answer me or even acknowledge my exit.

#### 

Two days later I returned to Stacey’s house to drop off the tape.

“Are you going to play your drum today?” asked Stacey.

“Not today” I said. “I’m only here to give your mom a tape for you to listen to. Would you like to listen to a tape of my drumming?”

“Mommy turn it on now!” She replied.

She grabbed my hand and led me to the couch. “Turn on the tape mommy and we’ll listen.”

Stacey was insistent and excited and she listened intently for about 35 seconds before she was back on the floor with a toy. I moved to the floor with her to see if we could play together but she wasn’t interested, pushing me away when I tried to interfere with her play. She spun a toy on a book over and over again.

I got up and said goodbye to her mother, leaving them with the tape and instructions to play it at bedtime or any other time Stacey got anxious. I also left a tracking form for her mother to complete to see if there were any patterns to Stacey’s anxiety or reactions to the tape.

Obviously tapes were not possible in the days that this technique originally developed but in Lloyd’s tradition he would often either move in with his patient or the patient would move in with him for a while and he would play everyday for the person until the spirit possessing the patient would move on. This was impractical for me and, given that I also worked in a recording studio, I had the equipment to be able to make a tape for the person to listen to so I wouldn’t have to be available for her everyday.

Stephanie’s mother called me after 7 weeks, excited by an event that occurred the night before. She reported that Stephanie had a sleep-over at a new friend’s house, a first for her on several levels: First, Stephanie had never been invited to a sleep-over before, second, she was able to separate from her mother to actually to on the sleep-over, and third, the next morning she was able to describe in proper sequence what she did at the sleep-over. These were major milestones for her.

Stephanie was also perseverating less and engaging in more appropriate conversation. She was also making eye contact more often. After roughly 10 weeks, she was observed in class by the school psychologist who noted that, based on her behaviors, Stephanie was “indistinguishable” from the typical children in the classroom. As a result she was mainstreamed into the regular (non-special education) classroom.

As was typical, when I analyzed the recording and listened to the rhythms I played for Stacey I was surprised at the complexity of the rhythms I was playing. Many times I had to slow down the playback to figure out what I had played.

This was something that continually surprised me. Even the first time I heard Lloyd play for a patient.

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 2 here 

Focus Improves by 31%: An update on the Brain Shift Radio attention tests

In my last blog post I talked about my goal of gathering a large amount of objective data showing that certain types of music (mine, in this case) can have a beneficial effect on attention.

Well, we’re roughly a month into our ongoing Continuous Performance Tests and so far the results are good.

When we built our attention tests, we were focused on trying to make the most accurate, objective test possible. We hoped that we’d see some good results, but lurking in the shadows during the build was the concern that we didn’t really know what the data would present.

I can’t tell you how nervous I was as the first hundred or so tests were taken. I looked at each person’s results and nearly panicked in the few times when someone’s music-stimulated results weren’t as good as their silence score. Thankfully, only a minority of test-takers had this experience, so at least I’m able to sleep at night (as well as I do anyway).

Following is a breakdown of what we’ve seen in the first 24 days of the test. So far, the number of tests taken is greater than the number of subjects in any other study exploring the effects of music on attention or cognition. This alone is a milestone.

Looking at the Test Results

65.8% of the BSR attention test-takers have taken our Symbols test. Because this is our largest sample, I thought this would be a good test to examine first. Here are the details of the results for the period 9/3/13-9/27/13:

Detection errors: The silence (control) condition error rate was 13.15. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an error rate of 9.48. This is a 3.67 or 29.7% reduction of errors.

Commission errors: The silence (control) condition error rate was .71. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an error rate of .48. This is a .23 or 32.3% reduction of errors.

Omission errors: The silence (control) condition error rate was 6.96. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an error rate of 4.77. This is a 2.19 or 31.5% reduction of errors.

Fastest click: For the silence (control) condition the fastest click speed was 334 ms. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an average click speed of 351 ms (milliseconds). This is a 17 ms or 5.1% slower click-time.

Slowest click: For the silence (control) condition the slowest click speed was 964 ms. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an average click speed of 929 ms. This is a 35ms or 3.6% faster click-time.

Average click: Of the three click speeds the average offers us the best data. For the silence (control) condition the average click speed was 599 ms. The BSR music (stimulated) condition showed an average click speed of 582 ms. This is a 17 ms or 2.8% faster click-time.

What it Means

Across the board, we saw reductions in error rates with the BSR music (stimulated) condition compared to the silence (control) condition. The average error-rate reduction was 31.17% with improvements falling fairly consistently across the three error types. This is a significant change and suggests that BSR music provides increased focusing/attention abilities when played quietly in the background while working.

Where I go from here

We’ll keep collecting data. And we’ll continue to increase our samples by telling as many people as we can about both the test and the results (please share it with everyone you know).

I’ll keep tweaking the music. As part of my goal to keep the music customized, we choose what you hear in the music-stimulated portion of the test based your silence test result and intake form. This means that there are dozens of different tracks used for the test. Our internal A/B test method tracks what works and what doesn’t work as well for you. This will allow us to see patterns in the music’s effectiveness. Making sense of this data requires a large number of tests, so you need to take the test so that we can up the ante on BSR’s customization.

We’ll keep improving your BSR music experience. We tied the test into the music selection algorithms, so your results help determine the type of Focus and Brain Boost tracks you receive when you let us choose the music (in Auto-Select Mode). This satisfies my emphasis on real-world effects rather than pure research. I want you to get the best possible effects from my music. Immediately integrating your test results with the music selection makes this happen. It also provides an incentive for you to take the test.

At some point we plan to test other types of music, including classical and contemporary selections. It will be interesting to compare BSR to the types of music other studies have examined, including that used in the much-publicized Mozart Effect.

We need a lot more data to do all this. So if you haven’t yet taken the test (or taken it today), please jump in.

Not only will you help us learn more about the impact of BSR on focusing ability, you’ll also be able to see for yourself if Brain Shift Radio’s music can help you focus better.

Take the test here

How Well Do You Focus? Can Music Help?

These are two questions I’ve been exploring for the last three decades. Initially because I had a hard time staying focused and ultimately because I saw such huge changes in my (and others’) focusing abilities listening to certain types of music.

How do you validate it, though?

This became the persistent question I confronted these last few years, especially after accumulating tons of data and thousands of positive user experiences.

After the launch of my streaming music site, Brain Shift Radio where we noticed that almost half of the listening done was for focus, I began exploring quantitative measures that we could use to see unequivocally whether music can contribute to enhanced focusing abilities.

Exploring Attention Tests

As it turns, out two independent studies recently conducted in the Netherlands on REI (the core technique behind my music) used Continuous Performance Tests (CPTs) to test attention. Both studies showed significant improvements while listening to my music versus either a placebo recording or silence.

So we looked closely at CPTs and they seemed like a good option. I was drawn to these types of tests for several reasons:

  1. Although they are not used to diagnose attention deficits, CPTs are gaining ground as reliable ways to test attention. There are a handful of CPTs being used in research and for evaluating treatment approaches for people with attention issues. These tests are also computer-based – our platform of choice.
  2. These tests are pretty straight-forward, so designing a test that we could integrate with Brain Shift Radio was fairly easy (especially compared to the software we have designed in the past). As long as we dealt with the limitations and shortfalls that often accompany tests of this sort we could get quality data.
  3. These tests can be done remotely and can scale to any number of users. This would allow us to collect more data on the effects of music on attention than had ever been done before. The challenge here is getting people to our website and engaging them in the test itself. The only real drawback is that the test-taking process requires about 20 minutes.
  4. We would be able to track, compile, and interpret a wide breadth of data. Not only could we track clicks and taps but also, through a simple intake form, personal profiles (anonymously, of course). We could also track and compare user, location, and platform data (again anonymously).
  5. As an added benefit, the type of data collected from these tests can be integrated into our music-selection algorithms. This means that we can use this test data to give our listeners better mixes (assuming they take the test and attach it to their account).

Building the Software

Continuous Performance Tests come in a few varieties. You have auditory and visual, and you have different types of triggers. The auditory tests were off the table since we would be examining the effect of music on attention and the music would compete with the auditory trigger. This left us with choosing different visual trigger options. 

Like all our software, we built the framework first, leaving ourselves open when it came to choosing trigger options. We tested a ton of different triggers and decided to offer two types: symbols or numbers. Both use the same timing, variability, and duration. Where they differ is in how quickly people are able to process the stimulus. Symbols – in our case various colored squares – are easier/quicker to process, whereas a series of six numbers takes more cognitive resources.

This makes the symbol test a little easier and also makes it a good place to start. The numeric test will result in higher error rates than the symbol test but, as we’re seeing after a few hundred tests, the relative changes between the silence and music portions of the tests are virtually the same.

Here’s a quick breakdown of our two tests types:

Symbol test (left, top image): This test displays a series of 6 randomly colored squares. When a white square appears in the group, tap the left button or the left arrow key on a keyboard. When a black square appears in the group, tap the right button or arrow key. If neither white nor black appear (pictured) you do nothing.

Numeric test (left, bottom image): This test presents a series of 6 numbers. If a 0 appears in the group (pictured), you tap the left button or left arrow key on a keyboard. If a 1 appears, you tap the right button or arrow key. If neither a 0 or a 1 appear, you do nothing.

Pretty simple. The trick is that speed is important. You need to act quickly because the stimulus only shows for a short time.

Taking the Test

Our attention tests are divided in four sections: An intake questionnaire, a test with silence, an intermission, and a test with music. Here is a breakdown of each of these sections:

  • Intake questionnaire: The intake questionnaire is short, just eight questions. These include gender, age, history of ADD (ADHD, AD/HD), medication use, and perceived focusing abilities. 
  • Test with silence: This test is roughly 7.5 minutes and gives us a baseline for your focusing ability. We ask that you not have any other music playing while taking this test.
  • Intermission: Right after the first test ends we start the Brain Shift Radio music. This music is chosen for you based on your answers to the intake and your performance with the silence test. The intermission lasts for 4 minutes to give your brain a chance to respond to the music. 
  • Test with music: The music we started during the intermission will continue as you complete the second portion of the test. This is the same length as the test with silence.

Interpreting Your Results

Once you’re finished with the entire test, we tally your scores. You will find two graphs, each presenting different data sets.

Raw Scores (left). The first are your raw scores. Here you will see each error type – detection, commission, and omission – and your response times – fastest, slowest, and average. Here’s what each error type means:

  • Detection error: This error appears when you click the incorrect answer. In the case of the colored square test this would be when you click white when black was presented. In the case of the numbers clicking a 1 when a 0 is displayed results in an error. Errors of this sort can indicate inattention or impulsivity, depending on the speed of the click. For example, faster clicking may suggest impulsiveness whereas slower clicking may indicate inattention.
  • Omission error: This is when you don’t respond to a slide displaying either positive response condition (a white/black box or 1/0). Omission errors can suggest inattention or slow cognitive processing.
  • Commission error: A commission error occurs when you click either trigger when neither of the positive response conditions are present. In the case of the colored squares, neither black nor white appear and, for the numbers, the display is void of either a 1 or 0. Commission errors suggest impulsivity or inattention. Like with detection errors, fast clicking may indicate impulsiveness. Slow response may indicate inattention.
  • Fastest click: This field shows your fastest click in tenths of a second.
  • Slowest click: This field shows your slowest click in tenths of a second.
  • Average click: This is the average speed of your clicking in tenths of a second.

This data can give you insights into your performance and whether you trend toward being inattentive or impulsive.

Weighted Scores (below). The second score is your weighted score. This balances your various errors against one another and factors in your response times.

Weighted Scores show you how you focus with and without BSR music. Lower numbers mean better focus.

The difference between these scores shows your performance, or more accurately, the music’s ability to help you perform.

In most cases, you should see a lower score for the music portion of the test, showing fewer errors and faster response times (as shown at right).

We’re finding that there are instances when a test-taker has not heard the BSR music before that his scores are not better on the music portion of the test. Past research has suggested that it can take up to 17 minutes for people with no experience with REI to see benefits.  

To test this theory we are asking people who scored as well or better in the silence condition their first time that they either take the test again or listen to Brain Sift Radio for a couple of days before taking the test a second time.

Based on people’s responses to these two approaches so far, we’re seeing that the second test usually falls inline with the results we see from people who do respond positively to their first test.

Ensuring Quality Results

We worked very hard to make the tests accurate by addressing the deficits and limitations that many attention tests have. Here is a look at the major areas we had to address:

  • Improvements from learning: We made sure the test is simple enough that there is no need to develop skill to perform well. We also offer a practice test for you to get used to the process and we throw out the first triggers of each test. This means that you won’t see improvements because you got better at the required task.
  • Sufficient duration: We made each test long enough that it forces you to focus. One of the keys for these tests is that you do them long enough that the novelty wears off, requiring you to work to stay attentive. This is why it takes a total of twenty minutes to take our tests.
  • Randomization and unpredictability: We randomly varied the presentation of objects within a consistent framework. This ensures that you can’t memorize or predict the pattern while also keeping the various elements balanced.
  • User tracking: We are able to track if someone has been listening to BSR and whether someone has taken the test before and what their results were. This means we can interpret their data according to their experience with BSR.
  • Music Tracking: As part of the intake and silence condition test process we choose the Brain Shift Radio music based on performance and answers to the intake answers. This will help see, not only whether BSR music can increase attention, but also if there are differences based on variations of the music. And when we have enough data we’ll be able to see how the music affects different gender and age groups as well as those diagnosed with attention deficits and/or those on medications.

Because of the databases and framework we have set up, we have the ability to parse the data in a variety of ways and hopefully see some patterns that we may not even consider at this time.

We have also built this test with the ability to rotate different music, even (gasp!) someone else’s.

Incorporating Your Scores into Brain Shift Radio

The Brain Shift Radio CPTs are for more than just showing you how our music can help you focus. We are also using the data to help us understand how you focus so we can better choose great mixes for you. This data can be stored in your profile if you wish and we will draw from it whenever you choose the Focus or Brain Boost categories in Auto Select mode.

If you log into your account (trial or subscription) when you take the test, we’ll keep track of all your results and you can periodically take the test again to track your progress and make sure you’re getting all you can from BSR.

The Brain Shift Radio attention tests are compatible with both web and mobile devices.

Take the Brain Shift Radio Attention Test Now

Brain Shift Radio got more press: thesop.org

The SOP.org: College Students Enhance Academic Performance by Listening to Brain Shift Radio

Published November 2, 2012 | By Jeff Strong | Edit

 

A new article about Brain Shift Radio was just published by theSOP.org. SOP stands for Student Operated Press and this organization is a place where a lot of cutting edge student journalism happens. Check it out.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Web App Helps College Students Enhance Academic Performance

ADHD prescription drug abuse among college students is a known concern among campus officials. The percentages vary, yet studies show that illicit ADHD drug abuse rates may be as high as 34% of a campus student body. Students use these `smart` drugs to improve their concentration, help them cram for exams, and enhance their overall academic performance. The Strong Institute, a leader of auditory brain stimulation programs for individuals with neurobiological disorders, has a solution: Brain Shift Radio offers students the ability to improve their focus without the use of drugs.

The core technique used in Brain Shift Radio was developed from the Strong Institute`s 30-plus years of research exploring how auditory brain stimulation can enhance cognitive function. Called Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI), their technique has been proven to be nearly twice as effective as 20mg of Ritalin for focusing. Other studies show improvements in anxiety, sleep, and cognition, among other areas. For nearly two decades, REI has been successfully used for longterm improvement in stress reduction and increased focus.

“Simply put, you can take control of your brain without the use of drugs,” said Jeff Strong, cofounder of Brain Shift Radio.

You can read the entire article here:

College Students Enhance Academic Performance by Listening to Brain Shift Radio