MusicSense: Bringing Synergy to Music Therapy and Biofeedback

Abigail Zhong
22
Dec

MusicSense: Bringing Synergy to Music Therapy and Biofeedback

Background: Music therapy and biofeedback are tested therapies used in hospitals to improve health and quality of life. Music therapy facilitates creative expression, communication, stress reduction, and pain control. Likewise, biofeedback is a noninvasive method for patients to control body functions which has proven efficacious for anxiety and pain management. However, such therapies are often inaccessible, particularly for those with disabilities. Biofeedback also requires frustrating levels of patience and training for pediatric patients. Proposal: Pediatric patients can easily utilize therapy using an interactive app, MusicSense, that combines music therapy and biofeedback. Using commercial biosensor devices that collect heart rate, respiration rate, electrodermal activity, or other physiological data, MusicSense will present data in real time visually and musically. As the patient follows visual patterns and draws on a screen, changes in rhythm, tempo, and melody guide them in controlling physiological activity. The app user can alter the music’s melody and range slightly through drawing, but the music follows certain set patterns to reliably generate pleasant harmonies. The app generates more complex, fast tempoed melodies with many layers and wider ranges when the patient is agitated and showing elevated heart rate or respiration rate . The music then gradually slows and melodies become less complex, lowering heart rate and respiration rate until the patient reaches a preset acceptable range. If the biosensors detect unchanging elevated physiological activity for an extended period of time, the melodies will grow more excited and stimulate the user before slowing to elicit a physical response. The visuals also change accordingly, guiding the user to draw predictable, soothing patterns to the music. The musical and artistic interaction, aside from physical benefits, also promotes communication and self-esteem to meet emotional needs. MusicSense builds on existing technology such as the Department of Defense’s free biofeedback app, Biozen, and MIT’s Hyperscore music software. By combining the compatible methods of music therapy and biofeedback in an accessible game-like interface, pediatric patients can reduce anxiety and pain while having fun. The collected physiological data would show the impact of therapy and could relay information to medical professionals. While the app’s required biosensors can be expensive, advances in technology are making them affordable and flexible. An app is limited and less personalized compared to treatment facilitated by a trained music therapist or biofeedback therapist, but it has clear benefits in its accessibility and fun design. Other potential treatment areas where biofeedback has already proven clinical efficacy include ADHD, epilepsy, hypertension, headache, and substance abuse. Conclusion: MusicSense is a holistic, noninvasive approach to reducing anxiety and pain. Utilizing available technologies, the app’s unique blend of music therapy and biofeedback can benefit a wide range of pediatric patients in the hospital and at home.