Have you noticed the background presence of music in stores, restaurants or even some locations where we purchase gas? The retail industry knows the importance of music in motivating customers to stay longer in their stores. Studies have been done to see which form of music can encourage customers to purchase merchandise. In a sense, this is also the case for brain-based therapy.
Music can help someone with a brain injury focus
Recently, I spoke with a Vietnam veteran who had multiple injuries, including a brain injury. While in his house, I noticed continuous sedate but rhythmic background music. When I asked him about his music, he simply stated that music is the only thing that helps him to focus on the conversations in his house. His statement is consistent with the research on music and post-traumatic stress.
Because Lakeside’s programs serve so many students who are hypervigilent, who do not respond to normal conversation and requests, we realized the unique needs of this population. We needed different ways to motivate and direct them to be productive in school, home and community.
We are now researching different brain-based therapies and interventions that we think will help our students be able to respone less with the limbic parts of the brain and more with the cognitive part. In effect, we hope that once the music calms them, they will be better able to hear and understand our staff as we are attempting to help them.
Unfortunately this is not so easy a task.
The questions come, “what type of music? Should the music be familiar? and what should that music sound like?” These are very difficult questions to answer, but there is a whole field of professional music therapists working on brain-based interventions determining what actually works the best.
We contracted with Joe Hesh to specifically write music that our students will use to help calm at any point in the day when they feel anxiety or stress. Joe did a great job of writing music. He wrote it with no beat all the way to music that has a strong consistent beat, over 80 per minute. The music has no lyrics but different pulsating sounds. There is music for calm, waking up, studying, chilling, and just for getting through the day.
Our students are given heart monitors and they can measure exactly how the music affects their heart rate. The idea is that they can choose which music calms them and allows them to better comprehend what is going on around them.
The results of music on hypervigilence.
We began this research this year, and already we are seeing that music and rhythm has great impact on many aspects of the school day. We put it on MP3 players. We have it in our classrooms. And we are about to put it into our cafeteria and hallways.
We believe that music and other interventions I will discuss on another post help students self-govern. In fact, the music we are using is specifically designed to work at varied levels of the brain to reduce stress, calm anxiety and help students be more in the pre-cognitive and cognitive parts of their brain. Because students have access to this music each day, the goal is to assist them to comprehend, learn, grow and achieve more than in their past.
It is intriguing and encouraging to have this new and helpful tool for our students to utilize. Lakeside will be offering this music to many organizations who will also have the opportunity to purchase and use in their programs.
Although I know needs run deeper than music can help, it can be a gateway to hope, healing and learning. This research provides all of us the opportunity to create new environments in schools and other programs where children need to be calm, focused and ready to learn.
It should be a very exciting journey for our staff and students, with many potential benefits. It is our hope once we are assured we have a musical product that has a track record, it will be acceptable use in any forum in which children are being educated or cared for.
Further, we hope it will help children and students who have a hard time focusing and concentrating to be able to take charge of how their brains are processing, to find other ways like music to calm them and position them to learn and grow. More to come on this topic in the next post.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network