scientist emojiThe Science Behind Brain.fm

Our music is designed with your brain in mind.

We run experiments to figure out what works.

OUR “SCIENCE FIRST” PROMISE

We lead with science as our product evolves, drawing from the latest in auditory neuroscience and collaborating with experts in the field. We know that big claims require even bigger piles of evidence. That’s why we’re committed to a science first approach.

Dan Clark, CEO

Dan Clark
CEO

Our Process

Humans control the artistic side of the music: melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, sound design, instrument choices, etc. There is no substitute for the talent of brilliant musicians in laying the foundation for a new piece of music. Then, a patented algorithmic system (A.I.) arranges musical motifs to create extended compositions, and adds the crucial acoustic features which constitute our core technology—this is the science: targeted modulation to alter brain activity, 3D spatialization, salience reduction, and other methods. Finally, compositions are assessed by human listeners in-house and tweaked or discarded if necessary, and are tested via large-scale experiments to ensure they have the properties required to help listeners attain and sustain desired mental states over long periods of time.

How does it work?

Our core technologies are enhancement of neural phase-locking (using music to drive highly synchronized activity across the brain via entrainment), and salience reduction (the detection and removal of distracting events). In both cases we have proprietary systems built for these purposes, using parameters determined by testing. The basic research behind this is currently in prep for publication. We are constantly looking for new ways to make useful music, and are not limited to our core technologies. For example, our music also makes use of 3D spatialization (e.g., to direct your attention in front of you), and we also vary sound parameters slowly over time in ways designed to avoid adaptation and fatigue.

brain.fm as a multitool versus binaural beats as a spoon

Better than Binaural Beats

When tones entering the right and left ear are slightly different in frequency, an auditory illusion is produced of intensity modulation at a rate equal to the frequency difference. These ‘binaural beats’ produce weak or absent neural synchrony (Vernon et al. 2015) while acoustic modulation applied directly in each stereo channel (rather than arising from different signals to the two ears) has much stronger effects on brain activity (Tierney & Krauss 2014) and is processed in the same brain regions in the same way (Pratt et al. 2010). Brain.fm uses this kind of (‘non-binaural’) modulation as just one of many sound features to help people reach particular mental states. Just to give a few examples, our sleep music uses 3D spatialization to produce relaxing auditory motion (‘rocking’), and our focus music removes any sound events that would grab attention (‘salience reduction’).

Placebo Effect

In medicine, a placebo is treatment lacking the active ingredient. We always test ourselves against ‘placebo music’—music lacking the sound features we think make a difference, but otherwise similar. We understand that silence and noise are not adequate control conditions when testing the effectiveness of music. Instead, we usually test variants of similar music against one another, or use control music drawn blindly from other sources’ relevant playlists (focus or sleep on spotify, youtube, etc.)

White Papers

Learn more about how we study brain activity