26 May 2021
Over the last 150 years, our life expectancy has grown, from 40 years in 1850 to over 90 years today in some countries. This can be attributed to advances in medical science, improvements in public health, and equitable access to healthcare, especially for maternal and infant care.
What will the future hold for our world? Will we be overwhelmed by a ‘silver tsunami’ of retirees with poor health, or will we use the latest research findings to rejuvenate the elderly and extend their lifespan?
Our Longevity Futures is a show where I, Chris Curwen, speak to scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, politicians, and community activists who are giving the world the hope that we can all live longer and better, and improve our health.
In episode number 7 of ‘Our Longevity Futures’ we host Gary Jones, co-founder and CEO of Medimusic.
MediMusic is a company that is aiming to leverage the power of music to help promote mental and physical well-being. MediMusic are able to fingerprint the digital DNA of music, to create playlists that bring quality of life benefits to its listeners. Music has been proven to affect the brain more than any other stimulus; improving cognition, motor response and memory recall, as well as reducing pain and stress.
In this talk with Gary, we will discuss the incredible impact music can have on our well-being, and how exactly MediMusic are taking advantage of this to improve the lives of patients.
Here are some of the highlights for my conversation with Gary:
Chris: Could you just tell us a little bit more about Medimusic and where the idea actually came from??
Gary: This has been an eight year journey for me.
I’ve spent my twenties in the music business and then had a career in content management distribution over the internet, about eight years ago a friend of mine asked me to join his wholesale music streaming company. I looked after Sony music, unlimited streaming service across 19 territories, worked for Shazam and Intel and so on and so forth. By that time I’d always had had an interest in the benefits of music to help as a musician. You know, we all self-medicate with music, and I discovered the Queen Mary university of London band plugins, which enable their algorithms, that when exposed to a piece of music, and they’ve used to extract features like tempo and tombre and all the sort of things that make up a piece of music. And in fact, the brain, or parts of the brain responds to music more than any other stimulus. So it struck me that there may be a way in which we can mimic the human brain’s response to music.
This at the time, the timing wasn’t right. So the last sort of seven or so years, five, six, seven years. I’ve been working on the algorithms, working on the research, understanding research that existed in the market. There are twenty-five thousand publications on pub med, the bio science library that outlined the benefits of music to health. It’s been around for 40 years, great things are time from Confucians onwards, have all commented on the benefits of music to health. I’ve read, I’ve got a library, 15,000 papers. I’ve probably read about, I think it’s 10,140 last time I counted. And yeah, so we live in, so we mimic the human brain is exposed to musi
When the brain listens to music we hear as a whole, the brain actually splits it. So the lyrics are left, music’s on the rights, the auditory cortex listens to things like tone and harmony. The brainstem is about volume. The hippocampus is about memory, so that’s, what’s relevant to dementia. And and that’s affecting what we’ll be working on.
So that combined with a analysis of higher, we can see music from a sociological point of view, a psychological point of view, how it influences us, how often we listen to it, our key by years or key consumption years. How that changes over the period of our lifetime, drives the front end track selection and then the fingerprint, we’d built a fingerprinted playlist that over a period of time reduces I guess it’s built for want of a better expressions energy, but it’s a lot more than that. And it reduces over a period of time and the idea that it brings heart rate down and brings down cortisol.
And in doing so promotes immunity, globin-a, promotes oxytocin and promotes dopamine, smooth es breathing, improves, cognitive response. And and finally, as part of that process, we have a thing called the Digital Drip, which is a biofeedback loop. We measure heart rate variability, which is the kind of bits in between the pulse, if you’d like it to be charged and that good, strong indicators of stress
And we know as attract so much respond to our playlist or particularly track if they don’t, if they fall outside that threshold, then we dynamically swap a track out to bring them down faster or slower. That then goes into a machine learning and algorithmic process, AI process that enables us over a period of time to refine the playlist dispensing a playlist.
So that, it does actually become as a service where we are dispensing music as medicine. So it’s effectively a loss long-term digital drug trial. And if you like for want of a better expression.
Chris: So you mentioned a little bit about the, the benefits there, reducing anxiety, stress, pain.
Could you just delve a little bit deeper into those and why certain songs do actually do this?
Gary: It tells my sentence almost for us. It’s the order of which we actually dispense stuff that’s important. so you know, personal preferences in terms of genre are important, someone certifying, you have certain things in your life are important, but what we look to do is create an experience that reduces, as you said, reduces pain. And in doing so improves the medication efficiency for both types of drugs, both types of morbidity. And if you look at it, there’s something like 73 billion spent every year on analgesics with an annual growth of about 3.8% globally. That’s a huge amount of money.
Music can reduce some percentage of that. Then it’s a win-win for everybody because you’re not releasing your body as such with medication that you don’t necessarily need. The can be replaced by something more pleasurable.
Chris: I’ve seen some recently of outside Alzheimer’s patients who, after hearing their favourite childhood song, remember it, when they can not remember anything else. So in even those videos, it’s very apparent the power of music.
Gary: Music’s the last thing that the brain forgets and Alzheimer’s that’s been clinically proven.
One point that is worth stressing is that each use case is different. So with Alzheimer’s, the process is because of the disease and the terrible disease, that it is where you’re presenting music to promote memory. Whereas in the case of pre and postoperative pain, for example, you’re dispensing music in the same way that a nurse would dispense in a hospital with expensive drug for pain relief.
Whereas at home, if you’ve got a headache, you might pick Panadol, you might pick paracetamol, you might pick neurofen, the importance is that it’s not about preference. It’s not about taste. This isn’t a leisure process as such in the same way that we listen to music as an object is a kind of stated objective for this.
So it’s important for people using the service to not go, Oh, I don’t mind that song or whatever it is to ride, go with the journey because the journey will eventually achieve the objective.
Chris: How did you actually go about testing this product?
Gary: We’re working with Lancashire NHS trust, teaching hospital trust. We’ve got six trials, either penciled in, or work running with them. We’re looking at dental anxiety with Sheffield University hospital trust. We have been invited into the innovation village at Leeds. We’d be working with dementia patients and local councils care homes and things like that. So it’s the whole, our whole services has to be able to space because ultimately what we want to do is not only improve our listeners quality of life and reduce their dependency on medication, but also provide a screen with indicators or metrics or show a health condition, how much money has been saved in terms of medication costs. What the benefit is of the quality of life benefit is to the individual itself. So that’s also very key.
We’ve worked quite hard with Lancashire in terms of getting workflow workflow being a priority so that we don’t interrupt the adoption that is seamless. And there’s no, it doesn’t require thought process “I’ve got to try this now. I’m going to do this” it’s too time consuming. So we’ve tried to minimise the intervention needed on behalf of a health care clinician or care work.
Chris: And what were the patient groups that actually benefited from this service? You mentioned dementia care patients. Was there any other groups?
Gary: So with dementia patients, we were seeing up to 25% reduction in heart rate, which is statistically significant, very statistically significant. The trials we are running at the moment, the data is still early, too early for me to lay it out publicly, but we would expect something along similar lines.
Chris: And does it work for patients of all age groups? Or is that again, something that you’re going to have to wait and see?
Gary: Yeah, it does. The challenge is obviously younger you get the Spotify generation, there’s some challenges there that we’re addressing and children in particular who haven’t gotten to develop the musical fabric of their life.
They’re relying more dependent upon kind of TV cartoons, and theme tunes and that kind of thing. That’s a challenge, but it’s something that we’re looking at. The scope of this project is huge and we have to focus on where we can bring the most benefit, quickest, and use that data then to drive subsequent studies into other areas. The human brain, we all respond to music in the same way.
So that’s one of the advantages of what we’re doing. We can use some of the findings from different trials and base, use them as the base point from which we build on or contradict, depending on what the outcomes of the trials.
Chris: What do you envisage for the future of MediMusic?
Gary: Banks incorporate in the US we’re getting an awful lot of interest in America and music therapy. If you look at it, our overall remit is to make music therapist scalable, disrupted it a bit, but not to the detriment of music therapists.
And we want to be a service that music therapists can use. And we’re working to open it up to a lot broader music therapist audience to see what services we can provide that helps them continue the work that they do in a clinical session or what be that one-to-one or group.
So the US, Australia just really fine tuning of the data that we’re getting so that we get every month we’re getting that much closer to being a service where we can dispense music as medicine. Maybe one day labels will release albums or EPs with a number on it that relates to, its ability to relax and you can string them together in a list.
But I don’t know, we’ve got a few, it’s a few quite exciting ideas in the pipeline, but I don’t think they’re developed enough to share now. Unfortunately.
Chris: You arere looking at people with dementia and Alzheimer’s at the moment. Do you see it getting to the point where the rest of the population, healthy people, will actually use it in their day-to-day lives?
Gary: Yeah, I’ll be chair. I’ll be chair, but it was actually dementia deadlines, anxiety, and what they call peri-operative. Pain, which is pre-op and post-op that’s our beachhead, that, that extends into palliative care. As an example, someone undergoing proton treatment for cancer, where it’s, it has to be very specific, very targeted. It’s a robotic arm that moves around all over the place, because it has to hit a particular point. If someone is breathing heavily, then that arm is going to move a lot more, it’s going to take a lot, the wear and tear is going to be a lot more than if they’re breathing shallow. Music creates shallow breathing.
So there are numerous use cases for this. What’s core to us is to make sure that we focus on those that, as I said previously, bring them the greatest benefit first.
We really appreciate Gary taking the time out of his busy schedule to come and talk to us. So a massive thank you from Chris and everyone on the Gowing life team.
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