Happy playlists, sad playlists, party playlists – every music fan knows that there is no better way to set the mood than with a killer soundtrack.
A research couple from Germany and Singapore are now taking this principle to the next level with a brain-computer interface (BCI) that adapts music to the user's mood in real time. Ultimately, her goal is to teach listeners with mental illness how to regulate and control their own emotions, she described in a recent interview.
According to Dr. Stefan Ehrlich uses the neurofeedback technology to determine the rhythm, the tempo, the harmonic structure and the sonic "roughness" of the music in order to adapt "seamlessly and continuously" to the emotional state of the listener. The tone of the music can then serve as feedback for the listener when trying to adjust their mood.
"I want to emphasize that the system made people look at their memories and emotions in order to change the music feedback," said Ehrlich.
Describing music as a "Swiss Army Knife", researcher Kat Agres found that its inherent properties lend themselves to health uses such as mental health and wellness. "It's social, it's engaging, it often brings back personal memories, and it's often great for rhythmic entertainment," she listed. "It is supposed to influence their emotional state and teach the listener how to convey their emotional states when interacting with the music system."
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music
Ehrlich and Agres have now started work on a 2.0 version of the system they call the Brain-Computer-Brain Interface. After a series of tests, they want to apply the project to stroke patients with depression.
"The general public currently perceives music primarily as a medium of entertainment, but music has a much larger footprint in human history. Historically, it has served many important functions in society, from social cohesion to mother-child bonding for healing, "says Ehrlich and Agres reasoned. "We hope that music interventions and technologies like our affective BCI system add to this evolving landscape and provide a useful tool to help people improve their mental health and wellbeing."