The science of sound: Researcher looking at how music changes the mind

Dr. Yun S. saw. I have the power of sound in the mind. While working as a music composer for commercials, he was fascinated by how the right melody affects the mental state of a listener.

Lee replaced his work in the music industry with an academic career in neuroscience, which led him to the University of Texas at Dallas, where he is today researching how rhythm can help focus the brain’s language-processing abilities.

With funding from private and public sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Lee hopes to find concrete neurological evidence for the beneficial effects that many people believe sound therapy can provide.

“I’m fascinated by the power of music – it’s something I experience daily,” he said. “At my old job, I had to make or find music to add to TV commercials. When we use different types of music, we get completely different impressions and emotions accompanying the same images. When they’re perfectly coordinated, you get goosebumps.”

Lee, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing in the College of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, recently received $200,000 in funding through an Intellectual Property Designation Agreement/Funded Research Agreement (IPA/SRA) to investigate noninvasive brain stimulation via sound to improve cognition and sensory function.

He also has an active three-year grant of $411,000 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – a component of the National Institutes of Health – to investigate the use of rhythm therapy to understand the neural mechanisms underlying aphasia, a language disorder that leads to significant difficulties in everyday communication.

Lee, who holds an appointment at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders in UT Dallas, said his dream of combining his passions, music and neuroscience, goes back to his college days as a biology major at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Then, as a graduate student at Dartmouth College, I was deeply immersed in the fun of auditory neuroscience and functional neuroimaging,” he said. “As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, I delved into translational neuroscience and had practical experience with neurological disorders including aphasia, where you see some pretty cool phenomena. One surprising example is that patients with aphasia are not Fluency they can sing even if they have great difficulty speaking.”

“By combining these advanced analytical techniques with neuroimaging methods, we aim to lay the foundation for the impact of binaural beats on cognitive and language function.”

Dr. Yun S. Lee, Assistant Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing in the College of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Binaural beats

IPA/SRA funding from the South Korean company Digisonic supports research into the clinical impact of binaural impulses, which are achieved when slightly different frequencies of sounds are played into the left and right ears.

“When you feed your brain with two different frequencies, the brain gets confused. It tries to resolve this discrepancy and create a new third frequency inside the head,” he told me. “This displacement frequency corresponds to a small mismatch between the two signals in Hertz. This, in turn, is thought to cause the part of the brain that produces brain waves to oscillate at this new frequency.”

Digisonic, a voice-based healthcare startup, hopes to develop an app based on the results of Lee’s study.

In his study, Lee will control the two frequencies that are played to research subjects so that the offset frequency is in the gamma band, above 30 Hz. Gamma waves, one of five different frequencies of brain waves, are thought to be primarily involved in higher-order cognitive functioning.

Lee will track the effects using two types of brain imaging methods on healthy young adults and adults. First, electroencephalographyAnd It will document the frequencies of the waves generated and determine the temporal characteristics of the brain activities that correspond to them.

“Our experimental data revealed that the bilateral prefrontal region of the brain increased coherence after being stimulated by hitting the ears compared to the control tone,” he said. “We will attempt to relate this activity to the participants’ performance on cognitive tasks related to understanding complex language.”

Another neuroimaging method, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), adds a unique component to the study. To identify areas of the brain, he will measure changes in blood flow in response to the impulses of the ears that lead to improved cognitive performance.

“By combining these advanced analytical techniques with neuroimaging methods, we aim to lay the foundation for the impact of binaural beating on cognitive and language function,” Lee said.

Intervention narrative

Lee’s NIH scholarship follows a new vocal therapy for those diagnosed with aphasia. Melody intonation therapy, which uses note patterns and rhythm to restore language, was developed nearly 50 years ago.

“Many aphasia sufferers can sing words they wouldn’t otherwise be able to speak,” he said. “But the neural mechanisms behind this have not been largely explored.”

Suppose to me that it is the rhythm, not the melody, of singing that enables the restoration of language. He’s been developing an app for rhythmic video game therapy in collaboration with Californian industry partner Flint Rehab, and recently completed a feasibility project for Small Business Innovation Research at the National Institutes of Health.

“Participants are trained to use rhythm to their advantage in playing a video game to practice combinations of phrases,” he said. “We will use neuroimaging to track changes in the brain via blood oxygen level-dependent fMRI in the next phase of the study.”

The relationship between rhythm, perception and sensory activities has been documented in his recent journal articles. developmental psychology And Neuropsychology. Children with good rhythm also tend to have good grammatical skills regardless of their intelligence or memory skills. “Language and music are related, at least in that way,” he told me.

Lee said the proven clinical benefits are necessary to highlight the potential of voice therapy.

“The idea of ​​sound therapy has been around since antiquity. Everyone has had some kind of experience with using music to relax or to arouse or to focus,” he told me. “We didn’t have the tools to try and quantify the effects of music on the brain.”

The key to advocating music therapy is to find consistent results from person to person.

“The field has been criticized because there is no proven rule,” he said. “We want to put in more clinical and statistical rigor to better understand the therapeutic efficacy of music.”

If Lee can document the neurobiological mechanisms behind sound therapy, his work could help bring techniques such as binaural beating into the limelight more broadly.

“The sensory-independent meridian response – or ASMR – has become significant with no clinical evidence behind its effectiveness, which is concerning. But binaural pulsation has been looming large in neuroscience. It’s getting closer to the mainstream, and we’re starting to see studies in journals,” Lee told me. It is highly respected. There is a fair amount of evidence that it can improve cognitive function or psychological state. We hope to understand exactly how and why.”

What is an IPA/SRA?

The University of Texas at Dallas Intellectual Property Waiver/ Funded Research Agreement (IPA/SRA) form provides an industrial sponsor the opportunity to own intellectual property (IP) resulting from a sponsor-funded research project. Granting a sponsor’s ownership of intellectual property up front removes much of the risk and uncertainty around licensing negotiations and subsequent financial obligations.

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