Brain health: AI music, coffee may help boost cognitive performance

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A person looks to the side while drinking a cup of coffee and listening to music with headphonesShare on Pinterest
Both listening to music and drinking coffee may help improve cognition. Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images
  • A new system tracks brain waves to provide a feedback system that may help people achieve stronger cognition and productivity.
  • The authors of the study envision utilizing safe, noninvasive stimuli to encourage desired brain states.
  • The study found that listening to music and drinking coffee can incite higher levels of beta band power in brain waves.

Many scientists hope that machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) may one day provide tools with which we can boost our sense of well-being and cognitive performance in our lives and at work.

In pursuit of this, a new study from NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering describes their MINDWATCH algorithm, which non-invasively captures brain-state data.

MINDWATCH analyzes a person’s brain activity from data collected by a wearable device on their wrist and from a headband.

In the study, the researchers prompted different brain states using what they call “safe actuators.” These included sounds, tastes, and smells.

The study investigated the promotion of “beta band” brain wave activity associated with optimal cognitive performance using safe actuators.

The researchers found that listening to music and drinking coffee were both linked to stronger beta band activity. They also tested perfume, which reduced beta band power from baseline but increased performance levels in other cognitive tests.

One of the interesting findings of the study is that AI-generated music produced stronger beta band signals than traditionally produced music.

The study is published in Scientific Reports.

Continually oscillating electrical voltages in the brain are referred to as brain waves. There are five recognized rates, or “frequencies,’ at which they oscillate from their lowest to their highest voltages:

In the new study, the researchers found differently shaped relationships between beta band power and performance in different individuals.

In one participant, the relationship was linear, with higher beta band power associated with higher performance. However, in another participant, the relationship was an inverted U-shape, meaning a moderate beta band power was associated with maximum performance for them. The authors highlighted that these results show the need for an individualized understanding of a person’s brainwave patterns to interpret findings.

The impact of music, coffee, and perfume

Going a step further, the authors of the study exposed participants to three safe actuators: music, coffee, and perfume.

The researchers found that listening to music of various genres produced a consistent increase in beta band activity, with AI-produced music resulting in the strongest effect.

Drinking coffee also resulted in a significant boosting of signals in the beta band, while smelling perfume dropped the beta band power, but improved performance in other measures.

The study’s success with AI-produced music shows that a safe actuator such as music can be optimized for increasing beta band activity.

“In this research, we utilized deep-learning neural networks to compose new music based on music preferred by each individual,” said Dr. Hamid Fekri Azgomi, lead author of the paper.

“Our approach involved exposing subjects to renowned, soothing music tracks to gauge their personal inclinations,” he told Medical News Today.

The participants were asked to identify their preferences using examples from three musical datasets: classical music, including works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Frédéric François Chopin; “fantasy music” including music from video games such as Final Fantasy and Mario; and jazz, which featured songs by Frank Sinatra and other jazz artists.

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