BrainBeat: Breath-based music therapy



Can we sonfiy calming breathing and passively influence a state of calm?

Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to affect the heart, brain, digestive system, and the immune system. We believe designing a technology to promote deep breathing can facilitate transition into a calm state. 

Nowadays, many people are spending a significant amount of time listening to music while working or studying. This makes music a good means for providing auditory breathing cues. While it has been shown that liminal auditory cues can be effective in encouraging a healthy breathing pattern, we are examining the use of subliminal encouragement of  breathing modulation using music. Auditory ambient feedback has long been studied and is proved to be effective. It has been explored in concert settings, interactive installations, and smartphone applications. However, our aim is to design an intervention that is unobtrusive and doesn't keep people from doing their primary work.

In order to find the best auditory feedback design, we have designed a controlled study comparing an interactive rhythmic ambient music track that responds to a user's current breathing patterns to a fixed rate music track whose speed of playback is pegged to a rate slightly below the user's natural resting breathing rate. A control condition with no music is also included. We will compare the resulting breathing patterns, heart rate, EEG signals, and self-reported measures to determine if the ambient music feedback has any effect on the user's state of mind and body. If successful, a musical system to subliminally encourage calming breathing patterns may be integrated into workplace environments, hospitals, and other places where it is necessary to promote less stressful and healthy environments.

Our preliminary results significant shift in multiple physiological measures that indicate a state of calmness.