[2:08] Organifi Green Juice
[4:51] Junaid Kalmadi and Adam Hewett
[8:57] What Is Brain.fm
[11:14] The Physiology Behind Brain.fm
[19:12] How They Remove The Annoying Beats Over Time
[23:09] How This “3D” Sound Occurs
[26:21] Binaural Beats And Brain.fm
[32:47] How Adam Made The Music And Brain.fm's AI
[40:16] Quick Commercial Break/GainsWave
[42:09] Blue Apron
[43:48] Continuation/Science Behind Brain.fm
[47:51] How Long Do Brain.fm's Effects Last
[51:03] The Ideal Headphones To Use
[53:27] New Additions To The App
[58:00] End of Podcast
Ben: Hello. It's me again. Surprise. Who else did you expect? It's Ben Greenfield, and in today's show you're going to learn about this way that you can combine artificial intelligence and music to increase things like focus, and creativity, and sleep, and it's something I've been doing. And I'm saying the word “and” a lot, but I think you're actually going to really like this one. I know I say that a lot. You'll like all of 'em right? This episode is brought to you by this one-two combo of digestive enzymes mixed with probiotics. Now when you mix digestive enzymes with probiotics what happens is the probiotics help with protein digestion, the enzymes help with protein and food digestion in general, but the cool thing is that whether it's on an empty stomach or taken with food, there's a whole bunch of other things that can happen when you combine digestive enzymes with probiotics. It enhances your immune system, it can clear away undigested protein in the gut, it can increase the amount of neurotransmitters that you have so you get better mental clarity and better focus, and of course by improving digestion your body also has more resources to allocate for mental function and cognitive function. And you also get less diarrhea, which we all love. Who doesn't love less diarrhea?
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This podcast is also brought to you by the best-tasting superfood green powder on the face of the planet. The one that doesn't require any shopping, or juicing, or blending, or anything like that. This stuff is called Organifi Green Juice. Well let me read the label to ya'. It's got chlorella, moringa, spirulina, mint, beets, matcha green tea, wheatgrass, ashwagandha, turmeric, lemon, coconut water. Just imagine if you had to hunt all that down in the jungle, then bring it home and take it out of all of its bags in its wrappers, in its skins, and then juice that, and blend it, and dehydrate it, and powder, and add it to your smoothie. That sounds exhausting. Who has that time? But this company just blends all of these high-quality ingredients together for you with no shopping, and no blending, and no juicing, and no clean-up. And you get 20% off on it. You go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/ORGANIFI, bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi. Use discount code Ben, and that will get you 20 off. Twenty percent discount. You're welcome. Alright. Let's move on to today's show.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Our vision, thesis is that music can alter your mental state in real time. We just have to navigate uncharted territory using innovation by combining music and neuroscience. So we started off with three basic mental states of ‘what do people need the most in their daily life'. They need to focus, they need to restore or relax, and then they need to sleep.” “We're actively working with some of the top auditory neuroscientists in the world like Ben Merilin, and Psyche Loui with Wesleyan, and we're getting MRI data, we're getting EEG data.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield, and for the past couple of months I've been toying around, as I'm prone to do, with this app and website called Brain.fm for everything from sleep, to focus, to creativity. And frankly, I have no freaking clue how it works. I know it can knock me out like a baby for sleep, especially when I'm napping, which I recently wrote an article on over at Ben Greenfield Fitness. Or when I wake up in the middle of the night, it can put me kind of like in the zone when I'm writing fiction, or when I'm reading. And when I'm playing it on an airplane, I also just doze off like a baby. Or, as my kids correct me when I tell them that,
“Babies don't sleep that well, dad.” So I suppose I doze off like a log or however the analogy goes. Anyways though, it's different. This Brain.fm thing is different than binaural beats, it's different than white noise, but I know little else about the science behind it. So for today's episode, I managed to get the minds behind Brain.fm onto the show to explain to you how you can use things like sound waves and artificial intelligence that they've kind of woven into these sound waves for sleep, and focus, and creativity, and a lot more. So in today's show, I'm going to be interviewing Junaid Kalmadi, the CEO and the co-founder of Brain.fm, and Adam Hewitt, who's the mastermind behind the sound innovation and the technology that's used in this particular app that I've found fascinating. It's actually an app and a website. As we talk, if you want to access the show notes for everything that we talk about, you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast. Or if you just want to check out Brain.fm, go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfm.
So who are these dudes? Well, Adam has been involved with audio and brain stimulation for over 14 years. He actually invented the first research-focused entrainment software that has been used by auditory neuroscientists and research labs all over the world. He actually holds a patent on a method of his own invention for embedding brainwave stimulation into audio. And Junaid, like I mentioned, he's the CEO and the co-founder of this company Brain.fm and he has been involved in a ton of different projects in the neuroscience industry. He's been in Inc. Magazine, Guardian, Newsweek, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, Vice, TechCrunch, Mashable, you name it. We actually had the opportunity to eat seafood together a few weeks ago down in San Jose, so that's probably his most important accomplishment. But this company, Brain.fm, they've partnered up with Team USA Olympic wrestling to help with things like insomnia and performance anxiety during their prep for the Rio Olympics. And they have a whole bunch of people on their advisory board, like auditory neuroscientists, and serial entrepreneurs, and angel investors, and a whole bunch of people in the neuroscience industry. So this is a cool company that's doing cool things. Junaid and Adam, welcome to the show, you guys.
Junaid: Thanks so much for having us, Ben.
Adam: Yeah. Thanks a lot for having us.
Ben: Yeah. No problem. And as happens when I have two people on the show, it's always important to differentiate between the voices. So Junaid, can you go ahead and just say some random thing so that we know what your voice sounds like?
Junaid: Ben is awesome.
Ben: That's awesome. How 'bout you, Adam?
Adam: Random thing.
Ben: Okay. Yes. Alright. I can differentiate between you. I'm hoping our audience, who are also pretty smart cookies, can as well. So I'll let you guys decide who's going to answer this question, but my first question is what exactly is Brain.fm. And that's kind of an involved question, but what is this? What does it do and how does it work?
Junaid: So we combine music and neuroscience, and we create music for the brain to improve focus, relaxation, and sleep. And the vision of the company is to put music on the medicine cabinet against the pill, and our kind of thesis is that we live in a world where prescriptions are definitely overprescribed, three out of five Americans on the medical association within the United States has used a prescription medication. So we believe kind of like the William James quote is that “our science is a drop and our ignorance a notion”. So our understanding of reality is really limited by the tools that we have of science and our ignorance is a notion. That same kind of applies to our belief with music is that our understanding of music as humans is a drop, but there is an ocean to explore, and our lens is innovation and science, and we are combining two bodies of fields that don't talk as much, music and neuroscience, to produce some pretty science fiction-like outcomes that can be used in everyday life. Like if you can't focus, listen to that. Within thirty minutes, that's the promise that you should be able to experience a very tangible difference. If you can't sleep, like you said Ben, it kind of knocks you out.
Ben: Now when you say music, help me to wrap my head around that. ‘Cause when I listen to it, it feels more like hypnotic beats kind of played in each ear. I've played around with binaural beats, in a little bit I want to ask you how this is different than binaural beats, but it doesn't seem like it's just music. Is there something special about these tracks that are actually being played in my ears when I select, let's use this for an example, so last night I put on eight hours of sleep, and I literally like had my little buds in my ears and I was listening to it for a full eight hour sleep cycle, and the music kind of seemed to change throughout the night, and there's little I guess like tinkling sounds and like all sorts of weird little sounds kind of like embedded into the music. But what is it exactly? Do you just define this as music? I mean what's the science behind it? I want to delve into the physiology of this stuff and how it's actually working.
Adam: This is Adam. So, there's a lot of questions in there, but let me deal with the first one, is this music. I would say that it is. I would make also no pretense that our AI is creating pop hits or anything that people would generally listen to outside of this. So it's musically, it's nice to listen to, and we pride ourselves on that. But as you're saying, it has special qualities and qualities that aren't in other pieces of music. And we can go into all kinds of the science and the different things that we put into it, but on the surface, you'll hear at first something very kind of musical, easy to listen to. With the sleep sessions in particular, you'll hear just kind of this waving, kind of really slow kind of oscillation in the sound. And this is not normal stuff that you hear in music. So it may sound a bit strange at first, but we try to ease people into it throughout the entire session. So we don't just start off with heavy stimulation. But it is different, and there's a lot that goes into it, and yeah, I'm happy to go into that throughout the podcast.
Ben: Yeah. I'd love to hear more because on the white paper on your website, you describe it as patented music software that basically triggers specific cognitive states using something called neuronal oscillations. So I guess my first question regarding that from a more scientific standpoint here is when you listen to this type of music and you say that it creates neuronal oscillations, what are these neuronal oscillations you're referring to?
Adam: Well, sure. Neuronal oscillations are generally first two brainwaves, or the way that two neurons will communicate with each other, or neurons communicate with like the deep brain. Basically, any way that two neurons communicate with each other. But we would generally, in common terms, you would probably hear of these as brainwaves that are measured from the scalp using an EEG. And what we do is actually called entrainment, and we affect the brainwaves, affect the neuronal oscillations through this process that involves specially structuring music that you actually see a response in the brain directly. We can directly stimulate neuronal oscillations and we can see the response on an EEG. And you can see it on an MRI as well. We recently had some MRI work done. So it's a very kind of tangible effect that you get. It's a very kind of real effect. And you can feel it too, which is really interesting, that you can actually just listen to this music and actually feel yourself drifting to sleep, you can feel yourself focusing more and it's a remarkable thing. Neuronal oscillations are what the brain uses to communicate with itself and that affects your mental state, affects how you feel, affects your focus level, what you're concentrating on, and many other things.
Ben: Okay. So if I understand this correctly, when you're creating neuronal oscillations using something like music, the way that that's achieved is you play music at specific frequencies and those frequencies trigger certain things. Like if I wanted to, say, increase focus and I wanted to amplify, let's say, alpha brainwave production, I would want to play music that resulted in neuronal oscillation of 8 to 10 Hz for alpha focus. Or if I wanted sleep, I would want to create neuronal oscillations using music that would create like a lower frequency, I believe it's like 0.1 to 2 Hz or something along those lines for like deep sleep, for example. So what you're doing is you're programming specific music. So when someone logs into the website or opens up the app and they select sleep, or focus, or creativity, it's playing music, the music is creating neuronal oscillations in the brain, and each of those different neuronal oscillations, depending on the goal that you've chosen, is causing a specific brainwave frequency to be induced?
Adam: Yeah, that's correct. It gets much more complex whenever you're dealing with the brain 'cause the brain is just such a complex organ and what happens whenever you stimulate the auditory system and what happens to the surrounding areas, how do they get affected. So there's a lot of other kind of elements in this. But generally, yeah. You would want to embed, let's say, embed frequency using modulation or some of the other techniques we can talk about. And you would embed this modulation or this kind of beat into a sound, and the beat would be equivalent to a beat you're simulating in the brain.
Ben: Okay. When you say the beat, do you mean like the back beat of the music itself, or is every component of the music that I'm listening to want to put this thing in involved with triggering a specific Hertz frequency in my brain?
Adam: Yeah, that's an excellent question. It's actually both. It's everything. Everything is timed perfectly in Brain.fm. The music is built from the ground up based on an entrainment protocol that we have. So we're targeting a certain brainwave pattern, and the pattern isn't just 14 Hz or something like that. It's actually a very wide, broad pattern. But everything is aimed towards that. If you have, for example, a symphony, every single note is aligned precisely to what we're trying to do to the brainwave pattern that we're trying to create. And if we give you a rain sound, every single drop of rain, hundreds of thousands of 'em, it's kind of crazy to look at, are aligned to the brainwave pattern we're trying to create. So, yeah. Whenever you hear the beat in the background, your brain is actually entraining to that, and that's something you kind of tap your foot to. But we do it at such a precise level, it's so precise and it's modulated in such a way with the other elements of the piece that it creates this very precise brainwave pattern in the brain.
Ben: Okay. So in many cases when I listen to music for a very long period of time, like over an hour, it starts to get annoying over time as far as my brain almost feeling like it's getting distracted with the beats in my ears over time. Now from what I understand, you have some kind of a filter or something like that that removes some of the Hertz frequencies, like the really really low Hertz frequencies or the really high pitched sounds that can become annoying over time. How's that work exactly? How are you removing, or how is different than just me listening to, let's say like Bach or Beethoven for eight hours in a row while I'm asleep?
Adam: Well, it's interesting because a lot of the research over the past 10 years has been on Bach, or Beethoven, or Mozart, taking advantage of the kind of publicity of like the Mozart effect, and we've really diverged from that. And I disagree with a lot of those conclusions. They're saying, “Okay, listen to Chopin at 60 BPM, 60 beats per minute.” So it's a really slow, it's going to be boring to most people. And really, that just acts kind of background, and keep in mind that these composers, if they came back and zombie Beethoven came over and saw that the majority of his music was being used simply so people could have something in the background to ignore, he'd not be happy about that and he didn't design it for that. He designed it to catch your attention. He designed it to be emotional. And the people playing it are not playing it to be very precise, precise enough to actually entrain the brain or create a reliable pattern. ‘Cause a lot of music is the creative use of the unexpected, so why would they be doing something like what we're doing? I'm sorry. What was your original question? I got off topic on the other.
Ben: Yeah. My question is basically this: if music has really ultra-low frequencies, like a lot of bass, or a lot of high pitched sounds kind of like spread throughout it, is that different when I listen to music on Brain.fm? Like are those somehow removed?
Adam: Yeah. Well what happened was initially I was just using my own experience, 14 years of experience creating these kinds of sessions and knowing what people will like to listen to over a long period of time. But I had to end up training that into the AI, and it was a really interesting kind of problem. How do you tell a computer how to recognize a sound that's annoying or a sound that's distracting? It's a complex question and there's really no easy answer. I'm still working on the problem, but it took me a long time to figure this out. And so the AI actually is very, very good. At this point you can drop pretty much any music you want into it and it will make something out of that, and it will align everything, and it will make sure that everything is at the right volume level to basically be listenable indefinitely.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So basically when I'm listening to this music, it is inducing neuronal oscillations in a specific wave frequency, like whether I've chosen that I want sleep, or whether I want focus, or whether I want creativity, it's playing me this music, and you've adjusted the music, you filtered the music to remove the really ultra-low frequencies and the really ultra-high frequencies that normal music has that would kind of normally distract you, for example. Now the other thing I've noticed, however, is it almost feels like when I'm listening to it that the music's almost transferring or moving around inside my head, almost this illusion that, it's kind of difficult to explain, but it's almost like this 3D sound throughout my head. Why is it, or what is it that you're doing to the music that's causing that to occur?
Adam: Well that's, I wouldn't say that's a common effect. It might be because you've used binaural beats in the past which relies specifically on a sound localization mechanism in the brain. But we do use 3D techniques, and you will find whenever you listen to a Brain.fm for the focus, for example, you'll find that initially sounds will appear that they're coming from the sides, for example, and will gradually focus in to the front of you, to the screen or the book about of a foot away from you, and you'll find that your attention is then drawn there. And with sleep, you'll find that sounds seem like they're going around your head at all times. It's very, very relaxing. We have had people say that they feel like something is changing in their brain, they'll get tingling. That tingling is a whole another interesting topic, it's called frision and we've done a lot of cool research into that. But another thing that people I think experience is different, well entrainment causes increased blood flow in the brain, so you can get kind of vascular effects where you'll get like a mild pressure feeling or it can feel like you were saying, kind of like something's moving around I suppose. I've never heard a phrase like that, but yeah, there's definitely a lot going on that would make you feel different. And most people feel tingles at some point while they're listening to it. And it's great that we can provide those feelings.
Ben: Yeah. I've definitely experienced some kind of weird sensations that I don't get with other music when I put these things in my ears. And of course, as you guys give instructions for the app and on the website, I use headphones. And then typically, like I've got a really nice set of Bose noise blocking headphones. But I'll occasionally even use it with my iPhone headphones, just the normal standard, generic, plain Jane Apple headphones and still get pretty good effect, even though it's, honestly, it's a night and day difference when I put in my noise blocking big old, cover-up-all-the-ears headphones, and then I actually wrap a sleep mask around those headphones if I'm using this for sleep. And so when I do that, I really get more of that 3D effect that you're alluding to pretty intensively. You mentioned binaural beats earlier, and I've talked about binaural beats on the podcast before, how if you play one frequency in one ear, like whatever, 400 Hz, and then you play another frequency in your other ear, like 390 Hz, that the difference between those two frequencies, which would be 10 Hz, is what your brain would be kind of induce if you wanted a 10 Hz frequency. And you can totally correct me if I just completely butchered exactly what a binaural beat is. But either way, is there a difference between this and binaural beats? Or do you have binaural beats kind of built into these tracks?
Junaid: Yeah, we are completely unrelated to binaural beats, and I like to give a simple analogy of kinda like comparing dialog to internet which is binaural beats, to fiber optic. It's just way more advanced technology. And it's just innovation. Sound's relationship to the brain can very much be advanced. But I'll let Adam kind of dive into the details of the difference between binaural beats and what we're doing.
Adam: Yeah, we're completely unrelated really to binaural beats. And the story behind binary beats really kind of interesting and unfortunate. But on a basic level, binaural beats relate to using two towns, as you said. And whenever you combine any two tones that are similar, they'll produce a kind of wave. And you can see this if you produce a binaural beat and you kind of condense to mono. It will actually show the beat. But it's not really quite that simple in the brain because you're relying on one tone in one ear and another in another ear, and what ends up happening is they combine in the brain, in the region of the brain that deals with sound localization. And there's a lot of problems with that. They never have really found a solid entrainment response, which is really important. And it's also important to note that they're just using one tone. And there's a lot to be said for using music as the stimulus. It has a much wider spectrum. And there's aspects of the brain that, the entire auditory system is designed to respond to a rich stimulus, not just a tone. A tone is very limited.
So the research on binaural beats is really spotty. Really, really spotty. Sometimes it'll have a small effect, sometimes it'll have, more often it'll have no effect. If you register it on an EEG, you're lucky. But what we're doing is very different. There's no tones, first of all. We're not embedding any kind of binaural beat. We actually don't even rely on stereo. We say that you should, the stereo sides, from a modulation perspective, are actually synced. So you could use this out of speakers. The reason we say that you should use headphones is because, one, the 3D effects, which are very, don't underestimate them. They're awesome. And the fact that whenever, whenever I've said to people in the past, “Okay, you can use speakers,” it's about proposition because you don't know what kind of speakers they're going to be using. They could be just using their laptop speakers or their phone and there's going to be a lot else going on, a lot competing for that kind of aural space. So using headphones is definitely recommended and important for that. But binaural beats, yeah, it's been kind of an ongoing nightmare to try to differentiate ourselves from that. We say like, “Oh, we study the way music affects the brain.” And they get somebody, “Oh, is that like binaural beats?” I'm just like, ugh 14 years of this.
Ben: So the research behind binaural beats, what you're saying in terms of actual research that shows electroencephalography, or EEG, based changes in brainwaves, that there's not a strong link between binaural beats and changes in your brainwaves?
Adam: The link is horrible. It's that there's no link, really, from a scientific perspective. As opposed to what we're doing, there's plenty of evidence of entrainment as a result of music and sound in general that doesn't rely on binaural beats. The guy who wrote the white paper, for example, that you have read, that's Ben Merilin, and he had a paper in nature on this very thing, on entrainment and DAT, which is called dynamic attending theory. And so there's actually a lot of evidence behind what we're doing, but binaural beats, no. It's very spotty. And it's kind of interesting because the first study that coined the term, by Gerald Oster in 1972, the first study actually mentioned in it that binaural beats are not as effective as monaural beats or other methods. He mentioned right in the study, it probably shouldn't be used for entrainment. He wanted to use it for diagnostic purposes because you actually can't hear binaural beats if you're sick in certain ways, if it's a time of the month for women. There's all kinds of different ways you could use binaural beats as a diagnostic tool, but not as a stimulation tool. And the fact is that nobody read the study. Nobody read it. And now that we're in the information age, you can go online and just type in “Gerald Oster binaural beats” and read the study for yourself and that's good. So I hope that that helps clear some things up. But, yeah, it's going to be a continuing problem. But we're different and we're hoping to counteract those kind of myths and the kind of charlatans that have come up in that industry.
Ben: Interesting. I'll link to that study that you mention in the show notes about binaural beats and also this white paper that you mention that was written on how what you're doing is a little bit different than binaural beats. And by the way, if you're listening in, I know this is kind of some heavy science stuff, but I'll link to all the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast if you feel like taking the deep dive. Adam, speaking of taking a deep dive. On your website, I discovered a statement that it takes you, or took you, anywhere from two weeks to a month to create a single one hour music session with this Brain.fm software. And then you eventually came up with like artificial intelligence, from what I understand, to actually generate these music sessions far more efficiently. So can you go into why it was originally taking you so long to actually make just one piece of audio to be used for Brain.fm, and what you did in terms of artificial intelligence to fix that, and how you're using AI now?
Adam: Yeah, sure. It was just taking me a long time to create the sessions and it was unsustainable.
Ben: How do you create them? Is this like a DJ creating music and you're simply weaving all these sounds together and that's why it's taking you such a long time?
Adam: Yeah, exactly. And I had to, keep in mind it's just a like an hour session, for example. I mean that's a lot of music. Every time you change one little thing, that means I have to listen all the way through for an hour. So that alone took a lot of time. But just piecing the session together, we're talking about millisecond precision here. Everything had to be very precise in order for it to function correctly. And it became pretty clear early on that it was not sustainable as a service, unless I cloned myself a bunch of times. Which is essentially what I did, I guess.
Ben: How does that work? Do you have like a keyboard, or are you using computer software to create the music, or what is it exactly that you're doing as you as you sit there and create this music?
Adam: Yeah, I would use a keyboard as well as just notes. I come from like a classical composition background, so just notating things is pretty easy for me. So I would use that and then I would break it into my own digital audio workstation that I've been working on for a long time. It's kind of an in-house thing and I brought it in there, and then I would align things very precisely and kind of mathematically to the entrainment stimulus that we're trying to present. And it was just a very laborious intensive process that, like you said, takes months sometimes. So I had to create this AI that can do it in seconds. Milliseconds, really.
Ben: What does the AI do exactly? How does it work?
Adam: Well it's different than a lot any AI I've seen done today. Today, a lot of people are focusing on deep learning neuronal networks. But the thing about those is that they're hard to tweak and we need to be able to go in there and say, “Okay. We don't like what you're doing here. We need to change that.” So I started working just out of necessity not even knowing it was going to be AI. I was just like, “Okay, this needs to be a complex algorithm that is really going to help us.” And I started thinking about how would good music be composed very simply, easily, and rapidly, and I came up with kind of what's called an emergent AI. And that basically refers to the idea that you can take kind of very simple instructions and a simple set of parameters, like a seed for example. And out of this seed will grow a plant, and a trunk, and roots, and something beautiful will emerge. A beautiful tree or whatever will emerge from that. And the same thing could be applied to a colony of ants or even humans, like we're just a bunch of cells working together.
So what happens is you have a song, what I kind of try to call a song bot, though keep in mind I'm not talking about actual robots. So you have a song bot and I would be able to tell the song about, “Okay, I want you to use these instruments,” violins and bongo drums, something like that, and, “I want you to use these instruments in this style and it's going to be a focus session and go.” And so it looks at all these instruments, and all these drums, and different notes, and scales that it has to choose from, and it creates a bunch of what I call “note bots”. And each one of these has embedded in it kind of the DNA of its predecessors. So it's been learning this entire time, I can train it and changing this kind of DNA to make these note bots do certain things better. And what happens is that they compete with each other. The song bot will spawn thousands of these little note bots, and they'll compete with each other. And something like a drum, for example, the note bot would want to start on the first beat of the measure or the third beat but that's not always going to happen because it has other things to compete with. So it might push another drum to the side.
And so after a while, you get complex stuff. So it starts with a “bom, bom, bom”. And then you get another drum come in there and it's like okay, “I want you to move to the sides.” A “bom, bobobom, bobobom, bobobom, bobobom,” something like that. So you can see how this would really create complex things. And then as these notes and as these patterns emerge, they pass their own learning back to the song bot, which then creates more. And so patterns emerge, themes emerge, and beautiful things emerge.
Ben: Yeah. It's kind of interesting. When you listen to one of the tracks on Brain.fm, things kind of fade in and out, and you can almost hear these little note bots kind of like competing with each other as they create this complex piece of music. But it's really interesting, this is all being created by, more or less, artificial intelligence now instead of you sitting there actually creating each track by hand, one by one.
Junaid: Yeah. And a lot of folks, there's narrow AI and there's general AI, and obviously general AI is like a super intelligent, sentient machine. And what we're doing is narrow AI, and it we like to say it's just extended human intelligence. So because it used to take Adam two weeks to a month to create an hour of a session, it took us six months to make just 20 tracks. So what would happen is that people would listen to them and they would like more. There's this effect called habitualization of music where it's very, you can kind of reflect on your own experience if you listen to a Spotify playlist and you've listened to all the 10 songs, you want to kind of after a few months move on to new music. So out of necessity, we have to go and figure out, “Okay, how do we really scale this up so Adam can create more music?” So it's like, “Oh, let's just take this super cool thing called AI kind of embed it.” It was out of necessity that we had to create unlimited content that now we have the ability to created electronic, cinematic, classical, really any kind of genre of music using this engine that we've built in-house.
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Now, has any of this stuff been actually studied? I mean it kind of sounds good as you describe the concept of using artificial intelligence and these note bots to develop neuronal oscillations in the brain that are associated with specific frequencies or specific brainwave states. And like I mentioned, I've used myself as an n=1 and toyed around with it for things like focus, or fiction writing, or sleep. But I'm curious if you've actually taken this into labs and looked at, for example, EEGs in people's brains, or MRIs of brains and seen what's actually happening on a neurophysiological level in people's brains when they're using this.
Adam: Oh, yeah. Yeah, for sure, my previous business, I mean it's a business I still own, but that was actually heavily involved in EEG's in general. So we've been studying it for 14 years now, but we've also worked with Giovanni Santostasi at Northwestern University and he compiled some, he's a sleep study expert and he compiled some very, very compelling data on sleep and focus, and we have that up on our website. But we're actively working with some of the top auditory neuroscientists in the world like Ben Merilin and Psyche Loui at Wesleyan, and we're getting MRI data, EEG data. Unfortunately, the pace of science is very slow. And if we want to do this right, we have to follow that pace. So it's going to be a while before we get a grand paper, but it is in the works and things are very, very promising. Everybody is very excited about it that we talk to in the academic community, and that's great. It's absolutely just great to see this after a long time.
Whenever I first got into this industry, entrainment wasn't accepted as an effect that could really happen in the brain. But I believed in the effect, I had experiences with it, and I created my own software, the first software to create this effect. And it was Windows software and it ended up taking off and became my day job within six months after releasing it. And I'm happy to say that now after 14 years, we see articles in Nature, in PNAS, and The Journal of Neuroscience, Psychological Science, all on entrainment itself. And it's basically, it's become very, very accepted. And the fact that neuronal oscillations affect mental state is also very, very accepted now. So, yeah. I'm really happy about all that, and we're working with great people, and we have some stuff up on the website. But the stuff we're doing now is going to eclipse all that and, yeah. Just wait. But until then, use your own experience as a compass. Go on the website, forget everything that we've told you, and just listen to it, give it 15, 30 minutes and you will feel it.
Ben: Yeah. And what I'm curious also about is when I use something like this, let's say I put in the beats for an hour for something like writing or focus. When I take the headphones off, do the effects stay with me at all or does it stop right after you remove the music? I'm curious about that for sleep, or focus, or creativity, or any of the settings that you have on the software. Like what happens when you stop the music? Does your brain just automatically go back to whatever state it was in before?
Junaid: That's a great question. We haven't studied that empirically under an EEG or an fFMRI. But experientially, N equals thousands of people, just from user feedback and our own experience, the most common use case is you listen to it while doing activity. So if you're focusing if you're writing, if you're coding, if you're designing, you listen to it while you're focusing. And experientially, we have more than often people report effects last after the session is completed. For nap and for sleep, it kind of knocks you out. And then after you wake up, it's not like you're continuing to be in a kind of dazey or sleepy mental state. You kind of come back to your more waking cautious state. So it's not empirically studied at the moment, but the effects for focus do last after. For sleep, it kind of, for the first 10, 15 minutes, you might feel like a little drowsy, but that's just like waking out of any kind of nap or sleep. And for the relaxation sessions, it definitely, at least experientially speaking, it does kind of last after and it kind of calms you from where you were before listening to the session.
Ben: Okay. Got it. That's really interesting that you can almost like create the short term states, and then take it off, and get back into whatever state you were in before. It's kind of interesting 'cause I even had my mom use it for about a 10 minute nap. I just had her put it on, lay down on her back, put on the little Sleep Master sleep mask that I like to put over the headphones when I'm playing the Brain.fm sounds where I suppose to nap or sleep and just lay there. This was on a holiday when I was down at her house just for an extremely brief period of time, and she thought she was asleep for like an hour. She went into almost like this hypnotic state. And then as soon as I took off the mask, and tapped her on the shoulder, and woke her up, and turned off the Brain.fm beats, it was just like boom, she was right back up and around. And I've kind of found a similar thing. It's kind of weird how you can be in this really deep state when you have it on, and it seems as though you return to a different state or whatever the next time that you need to be in pretty rapidly after you remove the headphones, or after you remove the beats. I find it interesting just because I'm all about having these little naps sprinkled throughout the day or little periods sprinkled throughout the day we're I'll just like check out for a little while, and this seems to almost work as an alternative for meditation. Especially when you have it in the sleep mode. I was going to ask you guys too, when it comes to headphones, you mentioned that it'll work with speakers, and I've found that it works with noise blocking headphones and, like I mentioned, the iPhone headphones, but do you have any headphones you've found to be especially useful when using the Brain.fm, or it doesn't matter that much?
Junaid: We recommend using headphones, for sure. Especially because of the 3D audio effects. So for example with the sleep session, what we do is that we simulate the rocking of a hammock or a baby's cradle, and there is some really interesting literature that's pointing to increasing slow wave sleep, which is non-REM sleep, or kind of deep sleep. That is the gold standard of measuring sleep at the moment. And if you listen to the headphones, it really stimulates that effect versus just listening to speakers, unless you have really good 3D speakers set up. But for the choice of headphones, personally we recommend any decent, good quality pair of headphones. The Apple headphones that come as default, it kind of, experientially speaking, if you were in a loud coffee shop or in co-working space, the bass kind of interrupts with the actual experience. But if you were in a quiet setting, the Apple headphones are fine. So we can recommend a couple links to you after the show that are particularly good if you're interested, but any sort of good quality headphone will definitely go a long way.
Ben: Yeah. Sure. I mean I'm happy to put as link into the show notes, anything you guys recommend. And I'll put a link to the couple of headphones that I've found to be pretty useful, the ones that I use, the Bose noise-blocking headphones, then also these special wraparound headphones for side sleepers that I like called SleepPhones. They're almost like a headband that wraps around your ears, little headphone embedded in them. Those are pretty well also. So the other thing that I wanted to ask you guys when it comes to the software is any planned addition of new features. Like I know you added an offline feature, which I really like. ‘Cause I want to be able to download these tracks and listen to them with my phone in plane mode without having to have the phone on while I'm sleeping or while I'm napping. And so that seems like a pretty cool feature, to be able to download these and use them offline so that you don't have to have your phone on. Are there other kind of planned cool features that you guys have worked into the program that you plan on rolling out at any point?
Junaid: For sure. Our north star, since the beginning, our vision and thesis is that music can alter your mental state in real time, we just have to navigate uncharted territory using innovation by combining music and neuroscience. So we started off with three basic mental states of what do people need the most in their daily life. They need to focus, they need to restore or relax, and then they need to sleep. So these are the three core mental states. And the app's been like for about 12 months, and it's grown just through the word of mouth to 200,000 users, and 90% of them almost ubiquitously love the focus option. So what's up next in the road map is really enhancing the focus category. So the first thing is going to be having different musical options. So having all kinds of electronic music, all kinds of cinematic music, classical music. And then after we kind of add musical diversity is to kind of focus on workouts. So cardio, strength training, and enable people to, if they thought they could run two miles, now can run three miles. So really producing some really magical experiences where people can, it's not just regular music. It's something that really becomes your edge. So up next is kind of really enhance in focus in general for while you're working, while you're studying, and then branching to sort of movement. So cardio, strength training, exercise in general.
Ben: Cool. I like it. Well, if you're listening and you want to try this, you can go straight to the app download or the website if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast. And you can also, if you want to access the show notes, and I'll link to some of the research as well as some of the headphones that Junaid and Adam send over to me, I'll put those on the show notes as well. Anything else you guys want to access and also any questions, or comments, or feedback that you have for Junaid, or Adam, or me, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/brainfmpodcast, and we can point you in the right direction over there, and you can access even more of the show notes. So check that out. And in the meantime, Junaid and Adam, thanks for coming on the show and sharing this stuff with us, man. It's really fascinating, it's cool software, and it's one of the most used apps on my phone now especially for naps and sleep. So thanks for creating us this cool little toy.
Adam: So glad you like it. Yeah, thanks so much for having us on.
Ben: Alright. Cool. Well folks, thanks for listening in. I'm Ben Greenfield from bengreenfieldfitness.com along with Junaid and Adam from Brain.fm signing out. Have a healthy week.
For the past couple months, I've been toying around with a new app and website called Brain.fm for everything from sleep to focus to creativity.
Frankly, I have no clue how it works, but it can knock me out like a baby for sleep, especially for napping or when I wake up in the middle of the night, it puts me directly into “The Zone” when I'm writing fiction or reading, and when I play it on an airplane I doze off like a baby.
I do know that it is far different than binaural beats and white noise, but know little else about the science behind Brain.fm, so for today's episode, I managed to get the minds behind Brain.fm on the podcast to explain how you can use sound waves and artificial intelligence for sleep, focus, creativity and beyond.
During today's podcast, I interview Junaid Kalmadi, the CEO Co-Founder of Brain.fm, along with Adam Hewett, the mastermind behind the sound innovation and technology, and during our discussion, you'll discover:
Adam has been innovating with audio and brain stimulation for 14 years. Prior to brain.fm, Adam invented the first research focused entrainment software used by auditory neuroscientists and research labs around the world. Mind WorkStation (brain.fm’s predecessor) remains the gold standard for auditory stimulation and branches of neuroscience. He holds a patent on a method of his own invention for embedding brainwave stimulation into audio among others pending.
Junaid specializes in transporting innovation breakthroughs made in R&D to a consumer product experience that's easy for any human to use. Since April 2014, Junaid lead the company to growing to 300k+ users, 3 to 13 people in team size, published 2 pilot studies from respected neuroscientists, and featured on Inc Magazine, Guardian, Newsweek, New York Observer, Futurism. Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, Vice, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. Brain.fm also partnered with the team USA Olympic Wrestling team to help their insomnia & performance anxiety during preparation for the Rio Olympics in 2016. Their advisory board consists of leading auditory neuroscientists, notable serial entrepreneurs and angel investors.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-What exactly is BrainFM…[8:45]
-How music can create neuronal oscillations in your brain…[13:00]
-Why listening to Bach or Beethoven for long periods of time can actually distract and “stress” your brain…[19:00]
-How the music and soundtracks used in brain.fm is different than binaural beats (and the unfortunate reality of binaural beats research)…[ 25:30]
-The fascinating artificial intelligence software that Adam invented to use “note-bots” for creating music for sleep, focus and creativity…[32:10]
-Whether any actual studies exist on the use of something like brain.fm to changing brain wave states…[44:15]
-The best kind of headphones to use with brain.fm…[50:45]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode: