Archive for 'Neuro-Media (Radio, TV, DVD, etc)'

Background music tempo affects consumer buying

buy, Buy, BUY!I have often noticed myself driving faster when listening to fast music – the kind you might hear accompanying a chase scene in a Mad Max movie, or a racing video game. Maybe it is out of habit and social mimicry that many people seem to share this experience: we hear and see car chases so often in the media that maybe this fast paced mental state has become a permanent anchor in our mind.

However, it is interesting to observe the same phenomenon when the effect of music tempo is analyzed along side consumer behavior. Here is a quote from the article that inspired this post:

Studies in America have shown that the tempo of background music affects the pace at which shoppers move and diners eat. Faster music in a restaurant can speed up the flow of diners. Slower music can lead people to spend more time in stores, so that they are more likely to buy something. Mr Treasure is a fan of “generative music”, which relies on computer algorithms and is faintly hypnotic. BAA, an airport operator, recently tested a “soundscape” made up of generative music, birdsong and crashing waves at its Glasgow terminal, alternating it daily over a period of eight weeks with silence. (The soundscape can be heard here.) When the soundtrack was playing, takings in the terminal’s shops went up by as much as 10%.

Amazing to think how music, without any brainwave entrainment or verbal additives, can be used to so dramatically affect human behavior. The soundscape linked to above may not affect brain activity directly, but our behavior still changes to “synchronize” with the sound.

Here’s a link to the full article (thanks to Mind Hacks for the link): http://www.economist.co.uk/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9079881

Music-induced schizophrenia, the neurology of sound and a kind of musical Turing Test

A fascinating show from New York Public Radio delves into some fundamental questions about music, through the lens of neurology. How does it differ from language? What makes music pleasant or unpleasant? How are auditory illusions formed in the brain? And, possibly the most important question – how is sound associated with emotions?

In my previous post I mentioned Schizophrenia. Well in this show it is theorized that a piece of music in the early 1900’s actually caused an audience to become temporarily schizophrenic. The music was so dissonant, unexpected and unfamiliar that it caused a flood of dopamine (linked to schizophrenia) – after which, of course, they rioted!

Also featured is a computer program that is used to capture the patterns of musical composers to create entirely original music along the same vein. It is so good that it can apparently fool even the experts into thinking new music from long dead composers had been discovered. A number of selections were played, patterned from musicians I’m familiar with – and I must say, I was blown away.

The pattern-based computer program is particularly interesting to me. I wonder how long it will be before a program is able to emulate a well known personality. Say, a public figure, whose numerous speeches, interviews, writing and appearances can be analyzed for patterns, such that we could resurrect, in a fashion, long dead personalities. Would it finally pass the famous Turing Test?

You can listen to the entire show, here.

The body acting as the subconscious mind, the “control over emotion” debate, and love potion #9

Emotion centers in the brainWhat will Neuro-Programmer version 10 or 20 look like? Will it even incorporate the same technology? Perhaps by then we’ll all be jacked in like Neo, or swimming with dolphins like John C. Lilly. Or by that time, will something so radically different have taken hold of the industry. There has been some buzz lately in the neuroscience community regarding emotions and motivation, and how to obtain conscious control over them. Humans have thus far exercised extreme control over the physical environment – air conditioners, light bulbs, molecularly engineered fabric for every season  – why not move this scientific energy to controlling our emotional environment? The debate promises to be very interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. People who already have significant control over their emotions regard them more as conscious choices than experiences, while anyone who has experienced chronic depression or anxiety would vehemently disagree. The interesting part is that research on the brain seems to agree with both, though advances in this field in the short term are more likely to focus on neurochemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin (implicated in love and human bonding). A recent study used an oxytocin spray to reduce the fear response in subjects. Maybe one day love potion #9 will truly become a reality, and in an easy to use spray bottle!

Mind Body CommunicationA few weeks ago, I listened to a speech and question/answer segment given by Candace Pert, as I was making the 3 hour trek to visit with relatives. Pert is best known to scientists as a discoverer of the opiate receptor, and known to everyone else as the author of the book “Molecules of Emotion” and a contributor in the controversial movie “What the Bleep?!”. She presented a radical idea based on evidence that many neurochemicals are not exclusive to the brain, and that neuropeptides and their receptors can be found all over the body. Conversely, body chemicals like insulin can also be found in the brain (interestingly, in the emotional centers). She calls neuropeptides “information gatherers” and suggests that communication is not one sided, but is a constant flow, back and forth between the body and the mind – using many chemicals most people think are exclusive to the brain. Based on this, Pert presents the fascinating idea that the body IS the subconscious mind, or at least a significant part of it – challenging the idea that the mind is the one and only seat of thought.

Here is a small excerpt from the speech, appropriately entitled “Your body is your subconscious mind”:

Candace Pert Excerpt

I imagine many in the neuroscience community would be skeptical of some of the more radical ideas expressed in the speech. There are lots of intriguing ideas floating around right now, and at this point I approach them more as “brain candy” than facts. I have always enjoyed discussing science fiction concepts such as the idea of transporting the brain to a new body. Could you become immortal simply by downloading the data in your brain to a computer? It is interesting to wonder how much of a person would change in a new body, or by abandoning the body altogether.

What we’ve been up to lately:

A new brainwave entrainment clinic is opening up near Santa Cruz today, and I’m happy to say they have chosen to use our software. I had a great chat with the owner and clinician, after a few weeks of phone tag, and I’m wishing them great success. If anyone in the Santa Cruz/Soquel area is interested I can probably find out where it is.

We’re still plugging away on the new project I mentioned in the last post. Nothing interesting to report. Let me just say that there is a reason we’re the only ones in the industry to implement Undo and Copy/Paste functionality.

I’m looking forward to testing some new equipment we received from AVStim, and we may have a new product in the accessories area soon if our tests prove successful. Over the last 6 months we’ve also been testing cordless headphones, but unfortunately we have yet to find a set that is adequate for use with entrainment or hypnosis – for music it is great, but for entrainment, not so much. There are too many cut outs, bursts of static, random reductions in volume, and other problems that can easily jolt you out of an otherwise relaxing session. Hopefully we will find one that works well and be able to offer it (or at least recommend it) on our site. I know the feeling of emerging from a session in a spider’s web of headphone cords – kind of ruins the euphoria. :)

 

By the way, I talked a bit about MRI in the last entry, here’s an interesting article featuring footage of the first MRI and the latest advances: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/5371748.stm

Till next time, all the best!

Adam