Written by Lori Thiessen

A reader commented on the post “Music Helps to Increase Your Productivity?”, that she was interested in pyschoacoustics and engineered harmonics. I had no idea what these things were. Being a curious person, I checked them out. In this post, I’ll just look at psychoacoustics. Engineered harmonics will have to wait for another post.

In very simple terms, pyschoacoustics is the scientific study of how the brain processes sound. Hearing is a mechanical as well as mental process. The ear acts like an instrument for catching sound and funnelling it to the brain. Then neurotransmitters in the brain ‘translate’ the sound into some sort of meaning for the individual’s ‘mind’. For those that know a great deal more about how all this works, please forgive my crude and likely inaccurate description. Or better yet, write in and straighten me out.

What is interesting to me is how we can use sounds (e.g. birds, ocean waves, whale calls etc.) and music to help us to think better, be more efficient, even be more creative.

Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis was the one to discover what has become known as the “Mozart Effect”.  He used music as a way to alleviate the symptoms of and the improve the lives of those afflicted with everything from depression to ADD to autism. You can check out the official website for this work at http://www.tomatis-group.com.

In an article on pyschoacoustics by Tom Kenyon, he cites a medical study which showed that people have increased their IQ by 8-9 points by listening to a certain kind of classical music. Another study revealed that pre-mature babies were more likely to develop more quickly if they listened to Brahms Lullaby.

He also writes that:

“At the Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California, noted geneticist Dr. Ohno has ascribed musical notes to each of the 6 amino acids that make up the DNA code. Dr.Ohno has been able to transcribe the “music” made by the DNA helixes in living things. These sound patterns are not random, but actually make melodies. In one of his experiments, he transcribed the melody of a particular type of cancer. The melody had an uncanny similarity to a piece of music written in the 17th century [sic]  – Chopin’s Funeral March.”

The skeptics among you might be saying, “Flap-doodle! That’s a load of piffle!” And I must confess that I’m a little sceptical myself. I don’t know if any of these cited studies are credible, but a quick google on Dr. Ohno’s name shows that he did indeed exist and that he was a member of some prestigious and reputable scientific associations. So I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader.

But I’ve seen the effect of music in action. At the church I attend, there is a prayer team that is available during communion. When the music during service is upbeat, like gospel, then the line-up for the prayer team is quite small. Conversely, when the music is downbeat then the line-up is very long.

The beat, tones and harmonies of the music appear to switch on certain parts of the brain while suppressing other parts which in turn can either help you think better, run faster, or be more creative.

The trick is finding out which music flicks which switch in your brain.

Here what one reader said in response to the post “Music Helps to Increase Your Productivity?”:

“Depends on the type of work I’m doing. If I’m writing, then definitely jazz. Artists like Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, Art Farmer, Miles Davis, etc. If I’m coding, (especially ColdFusion) it has to be rock. Green Day, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Doors, Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, doesn’t matter, any will do. When I’m running in the morning, I’m either listening to metal or Army cadence. Both increase output and give me more of a workout.”

So this reader knows what music to use to get the results or affect he needs from himself.

As a person who deals with depression, I’m wondering if in addition to taking my “happy” pills if listening to some toe-tapping standards of the ’30’s and ’40’s perhaps I’ll lessen the effects of the depression and become more productive. Hmmmm.

Q: What do you think about psychoacoustics?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!