Music, Health & AI: Making with Marconi Union

Music, Health & AI: Making with Marconi Union

Hear our exclusive interview with Richard Talbot and Duncan Meadows of Marconi Union from the critically-acclaimed Marconi Union, about the creative process behind “Adrift”, the first composition available through, and their views on modern music technology, artificial intelligence and generative approaches to music for health.

Music as Precision Medicine: Marko Ahtisaari Keynote at IXDA16

Sync Project CEO Marko Ahtisaari gave a keynote speech about design, science and music, and also shed some light on "the big picture" here at Sync at the Interaction 16 Conference in Helsinki. He pointed out that while there is an intuition that music moves us and improves our health in addition strong directional evidence in science, no one has built a platform to measure the biometric effects of music listening at scale.

Sync Session Interview: Benjamin Gold

Ben Gold is a graduate student researcher at the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, working in Dr Robert Zatorre's Lab. Ben is interested in how music can become so important and rewarding to so many people, and his is currently studying on the dopaminergic effects of music listening. We asked him what how the technology like the Sync Project could help him lead future research into the effects of music and the brain.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Alain Dagher

Dr. Alain Dagher is a neurologist and researcher based at the Montreal Neurological Institute specializing in movement disorders and functional brain imaging. His research aims at understanding the function of the basal ganglia, with a particular emphasis on appetitive behaviours. This involves studying how we learn about rewards and punishments, and become motivated to engage in reward-seeking behavior. 

We interviewed Dr Dagher during our first Sync Session at McGill University about his work, the role that music plays in biological systems underlying motivation and how novel treatments using music feedback should be studied to help people with disorders of choice.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Joyce Chen

Dr. Joyce L Chen is an Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto and Scientist at the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery, Sunnybrook Research Institute. Dr. Chen's research aims to understand how the brain recovers motor functions after a stroke, and to develop novel interventions that facilitate recovery. 

Dr. Chen is also interested in the use of noninvasive brain stimulation and auditory feedback such as music to improve motor function. In particular, her group is interested in how the brain changes as a function of an intervention, which will give insight into mechanisms of brain plasticity. Dr Chen has also investigated music-making activities and studying the effects of music listening in improvement of motor re-learning and rehabilitation exercises.

During our Sync Session earlier this year at McGill University, we discussed how a mobile platform such as the Sync Project may accelerate research in her lab by allowing researchers like her to test the response of music on larger samples under ecologically valid settings.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Virginia Penhune

Dr. Penhune is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Concordia University in 2000, and is also an adjunct member of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. She is a founding member of the International Laboratory for Brain Music and Sound (BRAMS), as well as a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH) and the Centre for Research in Behavioral Neurobiology (CSBN).

Dr Penhune has explored the neural basis of human motor or movement skill learning. Her work has taken a broad developmental perspective, including studies in children and older adults, as well as individuals with musical training and, more recently, dance training.

In our interview during this year's Sync Session at McGill, we learned how technology like the Sync Project could enable researchers like Dr Penhune to gather larger amounts of data, inside the lab and "in the wild", and bring use closer to understanding how the body's response to music could translate into specific applications for music in clinical or educational contexts.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Caroline Palmer

Dr Caroline Palmer is Professor in the Department of Psychology, Canada Research Chair and Director of the Sequence Production Lab at McGill University, Montreal. Her work focuses on the behavioral and neural foundations (learning, memory, motor control, attention) that make it possible for people to produce auditory sequences, such as playing a musical instrument or speaking. Some of the questions explored by her research are: how is it possible for people to synchronize actions within milliseconds of each other and predict event timings and patterns with little information (as they do in music) and what we can learn about the way these behaviors are modeled in music that may inform our understanding of other important biological systems.

In our interview during this year's Sync Session at McGill, we learned why she decided to study human behavior through music and how technology like the Sync Project "could be a gamechanger" for researchers by dramatically augmenting the scope, scale and environmentally valid settings for research.

Sync Session Interview: Dr. Robert Zatorre

Dr. Robert Zatorre is the co-director of the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS), Professor in the Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of McGill, and an advisor to The Sync Project. His groundbreaking research deals with complex auditory perceptual processes, especially the processing of musical sounds and speech, and the relationship of music with different brain structures such as those related to reward and pleasure. His work explores interesting questions such as “How does the brain process sounds that are made internally versus externally?” and “Does musical training in early childhood affect brain development later in life?”, among others.

Above is an excerpt from our chat with Dr. Zatorre at the Sync Session at McGill University. Dr. Zatorre discusses how modern brain imaging techniques such as fMRI and PET imaging have been helpful in exploring brain development of musicians and non-musicians, the role that music may play on a larger biological schema, and how technology like The Sync Project would enable him to take his work outside of the lab to evaluate responses to music at-scale, in environmentally valid settings.

You can read more about Dr. Zattore's work on music's effect on the reward system and the brain on our blog.

Sync Session Interview: Dr Jessica Grahn

Dr Jessica Grahn is a top researcher in neuroscience at the Brain and Mind Institute and the Department of Psychology at Western University, in London, Ontario. Dr Grahn's work looks at how humans interpret rhythmic information in music. Her work has led to discoveries about where rhythmic music is processed in the brain and how some people diagnosed with movement disorders such as Parkinson's are still able to "feel the beat" despite impairments in the very areas we know are responsible for detecting beat in music.

We interviewed Dr Grahn during the recent Sync Session workshop at McGill to discuss what we know about why the connection of rhythm to movement is so widely observed, how research has shown the benefit of rhythm in music over other kinds of rhythmic stimuli, and the potential that technology like the Sync Project has for researchers looking to extend the scope and sample size of their research into music as medicine.

Stay tuned for more interviews from leading researchers exploring the intersection of music, medicine and technology in the coming weeks on the Sync Project Blog.

Sync Project Q&A with Tristan Jehan

Tristan Jehan is the Principal Scientist at Spotify. He is the co-founder of The Echo Nest, a platform that combines data on music and listeners, that was recently acquired by Spotify. Tristan has a doctorate in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT and is an Advisor to The Sync Project. We interviewed him about his current work, his scientific endeavors and future interests. We talked specifically about Spotify, The Echo Nest and The Sync Project, but also explored topics like “can you tell someone is a republican by looking their playlist, will we be listening to personalized music composed by machines in the future, and what happens when you sync your playlist with your running pace?”