Posted on Oct 4, 2020
In this episode, Alex Doman, bestselling author, psychoacoustic music producer, and Founder of Vital Neuro, and Advanced Brain Technologies discusses with Dr. Tim the benefits of music therapy for treatment of a variety of conditions such as autism, chronic pain, improvement of physical performance and more.
- Alex discusses the nuts and bolts behind psychoacoustic modulated music and how it boosts mental and physical performance
- The overall benefits of music as a therapy are reviewed along with supporting research
- How music therapy helps to address specific conditions such as autism, chronic pain and athletic performance are addressed
Doman’s production credits are extensive, guiding teams who’ve created cutting-edge solutions that have helped millions of people worldwide including; The Listening Program® music listening therapy and audio streaming platform, and Sleep Genius™, an audio based sleep aid built from NASA research which achieved the #1 global Health & Fitness app in the App Store. He is currently heading product development to launch Vital Neuro to truly impact as many lives as possible by bringing exceptional innovations and solutions to the market.
Alex has been interviewed for, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Today, NPR Marketplace, Wall Street Journal, Self, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fast Company, MoneyWatch, ESPN Radio, and more. A global keynote speaker, Alex has been on stages in Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America and was recognized as one of the 50 important human behavior experts to watch.
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Dr. Tim: Hello, everyone. Welcome to The in with Dr. Tim. We are super excited today to have Alex Doman. I'd like to say he is a good friend of mine, a mentor, a colleague and likely one of the leading pioneers in neurotechnology. And let me just kind of lead off today with giving a little background about Alex and who he is and what he does.
Alex Doman is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, psychoacousti music producer, podcast host and TEDx speaker with 25 years experience in neurotechnology. The third generation in a family of pioneers dedicated to improving brain performance. Alex is founder and chief product officer of Vital Neuro and founder of Advanced Brain Technologies and Sleep Genius. Alex's best selling book, Healing at the Speed of Sound is published in five languages. He's contributed articles to peer reviewed scientific journals, magazines and books and is host of the Advanced Brain Podcast.
Doman's production credits are extensive, guiding teams who've created cutting edge solutions that have helped millions of people worldwide, including The Listening Program music listening therapy and audio streaming platform, and Sleep Genius, an audio based sleep aid built from NASA research, which achieved the number one Global Health and Fitness app in the App Store. He is currently heading product development to launch Vital Neuro to truly impact as many lives as possible, bringing exceptional innovations and solutions to the market.
Alex has interviewed for NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Today, NPR Marketplace, Wall Street Journal, Self, Women's Health, Men's Health, Fast Company, Money Watch, ESPN Radio, The in with Dr. Tim and more. A global keynote speaker, Alex has been on stages in Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America and was recognized as one of the 50 Important Human Behavior Experts to Watch. So, with no further ado, please welcome Alex Doman to The in. Alex, thanks so much for joining us today.
Alex: Tim, thanks for having me. It's an absolute pleasure.
Dr. Tim: Well, we're really excited to kind of dig in, Alex, to really what you do and how you can help others improve their health and performance because as I've had experience and just a little bit of background everyone here, I've kind of bumped into Alex just through a business colleague of mine and really just discovered really brainwave-based music, from a layman's terms. And we've actually implemented a little bit of it here at our institute, here at the Positional Release Therapy Institute and it's been amazing thus far. And I really believe what Alex talks about today and brings to us today is a possibility to really take your therapy, take your health and performance to a new level. So, I guess, Alex, I guess the first question is really how did you get started in this field of neurotechnology and music therapy? Just give us a little background on that.
Alex: Well, we'll to the Cliff Notes version, Tim. As mentioned in my bio, I've been very fortunate to have grown up in a family that's been committed, really committed, to helping people improve their lives for three generations, starting with my grandfather, who was a physiatrist.
And with your background and training, Tim, and a lot of your colleagues, that's a doctorate of physical medicine and rehabilitation. And my great uncle was a PT, a physical therapist. And they were two of the early pioneers of functionally based therapy for brain rehabilitation for brain injury and stroke, working along with a neurologist named Dr. Temple-Fay, who was really one of the early proponents of brain plasticity.
So, grandad and Glen and their global team did extensive research on how the environment impacts human development. They developed a model of the brain and an evaluation method called the Developmental Profile, where they'd evaluate functional movement to assess brain injury and brain development and then developed a prescribed series of physical movements and other therapies to help people rehabilitate their brain or to accelerate their brain performance.
And my dad and his sister and their cousins grew up in the work and I grew up on the knee of my grandad and my father through their work. So, the brain was and still is very much the family mission and vision to impact the world, one brain at a time.
And on the music piece, sound of music were an important component of the therapy programs that my family was doing. And in early 90s, I had joined my father at the National Association for Childhood Development to research therapeutic music protocols from Europe.
I spent a couple years working with a couple thousand clients, one-on-one, studying these methods, doing small clinical studies and then developing some theories of our own and those led toward building a team of physicians and therapists and sound engineers and producers and composers and developing a company called Advanced Brain Technologies and a therapeutic music program called The Listening Program, which you use in your practice today.
Dr. Tim: I do and we just really dabbled in it. But let me just share a quick little story about our initial use of The Learning Program, The Listening Program, sorry. And we had an individual in here a few weeks back. He's a young gentleman. He unfortunately fell 56 feet through a cave roof and suffered a very traumatic brain injury. It has rendered him with really, the inability to sleep. He sleeps maybe an hour a night, really broken sleep. Even though he's yawning and really tired during the day, he can't really get to sleep. It's really interesting.
And his mom and I were talking and I just said to his mom, I didn't know anything about his sleep, and I said, "What do you think might be impacting his healing?" Because he wasn't healing very fast, as much as we had expected as therapists. And she said, "Well, he doesn't sleep." And I was like, "Wow. Let me try this new program. It's called Sleep Genius." And I put the earphones on him. They're very specialized earphones. We'll talk a little bit about those, I think, today. And within 10 minutes, he was asleep.
His mom was completely ecstatic. She was like, "This is the first time this has happened in the last year." And we were super excited and kind of doing high fives and we knew that we were on to something and I definitely appreciate the research behind The Listening Program. But just seeing it in action was just mind boggling. And so, that's, I think, one aspect of– Right, Alex? The Listening Program, or it's one component. Maybe you can kind of describe, I guess, what is The Listening Program and how it might benefit individuals?
Alex: Tim, I knew this boy's story because he's in our area and our listeners may not know we're in the same town. And when you told me this story about his immediate sleep onset, it was so thrilling and I think people undervalue the importance of sleep, especially when there's been a traumatic brain injury, because we need sleep for the brain to heal and for the brain to recover.
And the tool you were using was called Sleep Genius, which is one of the scientifically designed music protocols that come from Advanced Brain Technologies. And the core program within ABT, that we've mentioned a couple of times here, is The Listening Program. And The Listening Program is a personalized music listening therapy that is neuroscientifically designed to improve brain performance. To do the program you listen through special headphones that are multisensory headphones that both vibrate the head and the body very gently while delivering the sound through the ears as well, so simultaneous ear and bone conduction, which gives this multisensory therapy, which is good to ground and organize the lower brain centers and the autonomic nervous system and the higher brain centers that we're training through listening.
And you listen for 15 minutes, once or twice daily, five days a week. It is a program that is a neuroplasticity based program, meaning that it's training the brain and it's helping to form new connections in the brain, help the brain to become more organized and efficient in different areas of our lives; the way that we receive an express communication, our attention and our focus, our short and long-term memory, our social skills, our ability to emotionally regulate, to process sensory information and create.
So, there's so many areas that music touches on because there's very few areas in the brain that music doesn't touch. And it just so happens that The Listening Program is more than just music. This is a classical music that's originally arranged and recorded in very high quality, high definition sound. It's organized so that when you experience it, it's like a 360-degree environment that you're listening to through these headphones.
So, you're very immersed within the sound, which helps you connect to yourself and your external environment. And you go through a systematic course of listening over several months, if not longer, depending on your goals. And that listening moves through different sound frequencies.
Now we as human beings can hear a range of sounds ranging from very low tones of 20 hertz up to very highest tones of 20,000 hertz. And there is a Dr. Alfred Tomatis who was an ear, nose and throat physician that's really the father of listening therapies who had, through his clinical practice, discovered that the sound frequencies the brain perceives have a big impact on how we perform in life.
And there's a term called the Tomatis Effect, which is, in fact, one of the laws of Tomatis that the voice can only reproduce what the ear can perceive. And if we have deficits in hearing perception, they can be restored through music with very specific emphasis on the sound frequencies that may be missing in our auditory perception. And that as we retrain the brain to discover and listen to those frequencies, that we actually see those reflected in the voice and in our performance.
So, The Listening Program allows us to systematically train all of the sound frequencies that affect the different areas in the brain very specifically, starting with the full range of sound frequencies, then specialized training and low frequencies, which we call the green zone and mid range frequencies, which are the orange zone, and the higher frequencies, which are the red zone. So, we're really going and working from the brainstem up to the cortex and back down in order to give the brain stimulation, to grow, to improve its performance and to perform more effectively.
And the great thing about this, Tim, as you've learned, is all you need to do is put on the headphones and listen, and maybe do something creative while you're listening, maybe do some art, maybe you just practice mindfulness or meditation, or do some simple manual therapies. But it doesn't require any output. There are no tests that you have to perform. You just put on the headphones, listen to the music and let it do its magic.
Dr. Tim: Well, it was definitely magic that day that I saw with this young gentleman. And we've actually tried it out on a variety of different conditions and patients, and I just want to make everyone aware that The Listening Program, Sleep Genius, and these other programs are just not applicable to, say, traumatic brain injury patients or those with concussion, there's a whole host of different conditions and even performance related goals that The Listening Program and some of these other music based therapies may be very helpful for.
So, with that, Alex, I'm just curious from your perspective, all these years of experience you've had, and based on the research, the plethora of research that's out there on your program and some of this sound wave based music, is there maybe a top number or top 10 or something of that nature that you see that you've found seems to be most impactful for, say, certain conditions or performance related goals? What's been your experience there, Alex?
Alex: Our experience tends to be directed by the people using our programs that are drawn to them, Tim. So, originally, because my family's work was very much centered on pediatrics, helping children, helping young adults that had some neurological challenge. So, we're dealing with what we would call hurt kids. Kids that had some sort of brain trauma or brain anomaly that needed rehabilitation in order for that individual to move up to, what we'll say, typical function, and then to be able to accelerate their function.
So, much of our work has been centered on children, especially children, young adults on the autism spectrum. So, the number on our top 10 lists would be autism spectrum disorders, both children and adults, is where we see incredibly profound improvement in social engagement skills, in independent living, going from non-verbal to verbal and being able to feel comfortable and safe in their environment.
Our next category would go into children with learning and attentional difficulties; it might be they're diagnosed with dyslexia or a learning disability or attention deficit disorder. Our next category from there would be individuals with auditory processing disorder. They don't have hearing challenges, but their brain actually doesn't process what they're hearing efficiently and they're not able to make great sense of it. From there, a large category, which is where we didn't start our work or even know we'd have an impact, is on stress disorders in young adults and older adults.
So, individuals with [inaudible] [00:16:01] and stress, and then going along the depression spectrum and anxiety, we've seen incredible impact. We worked with veterans in the US. Veterans’ administration in 10 different hospitals. And seeing an incredible impact on their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. So, we'll kind of call those, a big five and then from there, they're hundreds of different applications, right? So, we've worked with top performance coaches in the field of sports that have helped athletes refine their function and performance.
We've been able to help children with visual impairment; adults with visual impairment navigate their environment better as their auditory senses are developed through listening. We just recently had some research published in Korea that showed the impact on the listening program on adults with hearing loss. And actually showing that the training with the listening program is significantly improving their hearing and lessening their need for hearing aids if they have mild to moderate hearing loss.
So, as you can see, it's very wide ranging. But I just want to take an example of our own home, right? So, my wife, Mandy, and I have five boys, 24, they're 20, and they're 10. And, over the course of the older boy’s childhood, the listening program was a really important part of their day.
And they like our youngest son Brendan, have all developed a musical ear, are incredible self-taught musicians. So, voice, piano, guitars, and their artistic skills are incredible. And I can't help but think the work they did with TLP help nurture that within them. Within Mandy and my own life, what I would say is the listening program is a tool for wellness. And that I really see when we're actively doing our listening on a consistent basis that we for sure are the best versions of ourselves.
And that's important in our relationship, right? As, husband and wife, because when we're better listeners, we're better partners. And then, we can create a better environment for our family and within our home. So, the applications are just so diverse and people often ask, well why can we see such a wide range of responses to the listening program? It's because fundamentally we're all humans and we all have brains. And we all respond to music in wonderful and beautiful ways. And that's the commonality. What happens within each of us is very personal and very different, but we're working on the same fundamental neural networks that we all share and are evolving.
Dr. Tim: Right. And I'm just constantly amazed at the sort of spectrum that music therapy can touch. And particularly with the listening program. But what really struck me about what you just said a few minutes ago is that you've kind of been doing a family experiment for some time. I happened to kind of really enjoy that explanation and also detail in your book.
And how you kind of typified it, and maybe you can expand on this sort of concept of sound nutrition or sonic nutrition that you really started really right from the womb. And so, wasn't when there was a problem per se, you thought to do it proactively, which kind of; I did as well back when we had our first child.
But I wasn't doing it as I think, as refined as you were, I was just kind of putting headphones on the belly and we were kind of hoping for the best. So, we knew that, that time that music could have an impact on the womb but maybe you can talk on that a little bit and how that experiment maybe has gone. And maybe why you went that direction? I'm just curious of why you initially went that direction and mine was sort of just by happenstance.
Alex: So, in the book that I wrote with Don Campbell, Healing at the Speed of Sound, that book is really focused on the health impact of sound. And how sound can be a tool for healing. And I really Tim, personally see sound as a pillar of our health, and it's just not fully recognized yet. So, we have to understand that sound can both harm and sound can heal.
So, what do I mean by the fact that sound can harm, well in our growing very populous world with lots of technology and lots of sound in more dense population in urban areas, our noise levels are at an all time high? And right after our book had been published, the World Health Organization came out with a massive study in Europe. And the outcome of this study was that sound was the second leading cause of ill health in Europe.
Dr. Tim: Wow.
Alex: And what I mean by sound, I want to replace the word with noise and it was traffic noise. Traffic noise impacts our stress regulation. And extreme cases, people with certain cardiac conditions were dying from noise exposure. So, that, noise could actually kill. Now, I want you to think of– You're a father and think of your spouse during pregnancy.
And if you are like me, Tim and I know how health-minded you are. You likely were very nurturing for your wife, right? Making sure she got movement that she had plenty of rest, that you kept her stress levels low, that she ate well, and did all of the things that you could to set the environment for the growth and development of your child in the womb.
Dr. Tim: Well, I gave it my best shot Alex, but at six months I had an ice climbing fall. And then, all the care, and all the health, and all the other things that revolved around caring for my wife really became about me. So, she got that for about six months. And then, of course, then she got slighted a little bit, but we got back to it.
Alex: Had to switch gears. And where I'm going here is one of the really important things during pregnancy is to understand the fact that the mother's state of mind, right, mentally and physically is impacting the child moment by moment. If mom's stress levels are elevated and she has elevated stress hormone cortisol, so does your child, right? That transfers in that conjoined environment. So, the idea is to keep stress low, to not expose the infant to noisy environments, to make sure that mom is nurtured and well. And part of what I was doing during the pregnancy with Mandy, feeding her all sorts of organic foods, trying to keep her exercising which she did by choice.
And it's funny at eight months, Tim I've got video, which she would kill me if I ever showed of her doing hip hop apps, right. She excercised every day which was just tremendous for her. But we really worked on keeping stress level down, but also giving her a nurturing sound protocol.
So, the fetus begins to hear at about 16 to 20 weeks after gestation and that auditory system in the cochlea, which is in the inner ear, and the vestibular system, which is our balance movement organ in the brain, they are developing and being influenced by both movement and sound. And that's really important neurodevelopmentally for good solid child development. So, child development begins in the womb.
And so, what we did is created a protocol, a pregnancy protocol with The Listening Program, where Mandy went through a full course of listening, going through all those sound frequencies, because in the womb, our youngest, Brendan, was hearing everything she was hearing through bone conduction. So, the sound moving through her body was going into his fetal system and nurturing and helping to grow his brain.
So, we developed a very specific protocol that we timed during the course of the pregnancy. I created a playlist of music that was ready to go as Mandy was taken to the hospital. We created a sound playlist during the birthing process and for after birth. So, we literally created a customized sound protocol for the pregnancy and actually the birth process.
And one of the things that was super fun in the hospital is that we had some essential oils in the hospital room and we were playing different playlist of our music, and nurses would just come and hang out in Mandy's room because it was the most peaceful place in the hospital and they hadn't experienced anything like that. And to me, that was very sad because I really think in our hospitals and in that breathing process, it's such a sacred time and such an important time, that we should create the best environment possible to not only keep the stress levels of mom and infant down, but also the wonderful health professionals that are there serving us, helping to nurture them.
Dr. Tim: Yeah, and I think those of us who have kind of been through the birth process, either as a father or mother, can really appreciate the stress involved. Now, with that being said though, Alex, we are in an immense stressful time, this COVID time, and I'm just curious of your perception how this time might be affecting brain development and its impact really on our overall brain health, and what we might be able to do with sound-based therapy to kind of mitigate those stress effects on our brain health?
Alex: Tim, I'm really glad you brought that up because I am gravely concerned, and it's not just with COVID. If we look at our world since the advent of social media and when that growth curve really started in 2010, so today over the last 10 years, and we look at the impact of our children, our oldest son, Zane, who was born in 1996, was the first generation that had mobile phones with social media in middle school. He didn't, we delayed his exposure, but his peers did.
And what we have seen in our children and young adults is absolutely devastating. And I'm going to get to the COVID question importantly, but this sets a foundation for the conversation. What's happening, we have this environment where we're getting so many points of auditory and visual input coming at us with so many impressions. And all of those impressions are designed to feed the dopamine reward network in the brain and to keep us coming back for more, right? The design of our notifications and of our like buttons, and every interaction is designed to impact us and to subtly change our behavior over time.
And we've watched that happen. And unfortunately, for our young people and even many of our peers, Tim, our sense of self, of self-worth, of value is measured against these incomparable benchmarks of people that we're seeing in our Instagram and our Facebook feeds that are putting together a montage of just the best moments in their life as if that's the life in entirety. And we have this false perception of wealth and of beauty and of luxury and fitness and everything that we can imagine that we're rating ourselves against. And the impact this is having is immense.
So, what we're seeing in our young people is a devastating curve in increase of depression, of self-harming behavior, and of suicides. And I'm going to share a statistic that is absolutely devastating, Tim, and that is the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 in America is suicide. And what's happening is we are becoming less resilient as humanity.
And as we get fake news, and depending on what we interact with online, our news is being manipulated to our preferences and we're being guided down certain paths based on our conservative or more liberal viewpoints. And it becomes this self-reinforcing prophesy of what we believe and see is all that we see and all that comes at us. So, we're seeing the world through a much distorted view.
Then we have something like COVID come along. Our resilience is low. We've got a lot of challenges that we're faced with in society today, then the world gets hit with this epidemic and we're told to stay home, not communicate, not engage with one another, and wear masks everywhere we go.
And this isn't a commentary of whether that's right or wrong, but what happens and has happened is we've become more isolated. And now, we are seeing an exponential increase again on diseases of despair. So, we're seeing depression, suicide, child abuse, and spousal abuse, all on the increase. We're seeing people that were recovering addicts going back to their drug of choice. And it's heartbreaking for me.
Alex: And the underlying theme here is that we are not self-regulating, so we're not as resilient as we once were. And this is where the work that we do is very important because The Listening Program and music listening therapy can help us to come to a place of safety and security and of calmness and resilience.
And it can help us restore much of what we've lost, and I want you to think of the listening program in this regard, like meditation and mindful practice, mindfulness practice, that is helping you to come back in connection with yourself, become grounded with those within your family and bonded within that unit.
The music-listening therapy lays down a foundation to help support and nurture that resilience and that self-regulation that's so needed right now. To help us get out of this state of fear and this constant state of fight or flight, and to relax and restore and be able to respond to what's happening with more measure and more mindfulness.
Dr. Tim: Well, I often say to my patients, the listening program, this brainwave-based music, is kind of like meditation on steroids, you know? It really helps them tap into that mindfulness and that calmness. Now they're doing the listening program somewhat sequestered, but she has mentioned and commented quite often since I've seen her and we started the program, that it's dramatically impacting his mood. He feels better. And maybe, Alex, can you explain that? How does it kind of decrease that flight-or-fight, fear-based imprint that's happening to us during these stressful times?
Alex: Well, first of all I'm thrilled to hear that this client is improving. So, we are here today because we have this autonomic nervous system as human beings, right? So, this is this automatic subconscious part of our brain, that's often wrongfully called the reptilian or primitive brain. It's far more evolved than that represents, but the idea is this mechanism in the brain, when we are under threat, would help us to stay alive by signaling automatic responses to fight the threat, to flee the threat, or to feign or to freeze to preserve life.
What's happened in today's world is that our brains are often under what's called a false neuroception. It's the neuroception, or the brain's perception that we are under threat. We respond in the same way as if the saber-tooth tiger was coming to kill us. What happens when we go into fight-or-flight mode, our metabolism slows down. We have all sorts of changes within the body that prepare us for what's going on. When this happens, communication shuts down. Social engagement skills decrease. We see changes in brain chemistry, and when we are in this mode of survival it's very difficult to communicate and interact, and to respond the way that we need to our real environment.
What the listening program does is it helps to restore the brain's ability to go out of what's called sympathetic response in the sympathetic nervous system, which is the gas pedal for survival, and to put on the brake, which is the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, which allows us to rest and recover. So, what it's doing is helping to stimulate the brain in a very foundational way, so that it can restore the balance to a state of homeostasis. When we're in homeostasis, we're in a state of health. We're in a state of well-being. We're less reactive, and we're able to find balance within our life. The listening program, as we've observed now for over 20 years, consistently restores that in both kids and adults. For many, it has become a necessary lifeline just to help them maintain the balance within their lives.
Dr. Tim: I just want to mention, I have one patient like that now. One thing we've not really touched on in depth here, but chronic pain. They're in chronic pain, and those patients out there who are in chronic pain, and a lot of people are, they're in the flight-or-fight response. They're in sympathetic drive. They're upregulated, per se, and this patient just happened to – I don't know. Just something rang, because she's quite educated in pain and chronic pain. She said, "I just think my vagus nerve is on fire, and that it's just really kind of overactive. If I could just reduce the activity of my vagus nerve, I think I would feel less pain."
I said, "Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense." And so, I went to the research on your website, which is amazing, and there was some research there about vagus nerve sort of regulation, vagal regulation, and how that vibration with the headset, and the music itself, really helps really calm the vagus, sort of vagal response. And so, every time she comes in now, we do a treatment on her to essentially see if I can downregulate her vagus nerve. Since we've been doing that, we've seen a significant drop in her chronic pain, which has been awesome.
So, we've not really talked about pain very much. I know that there was a recent study done I think on mice at the University of Utah, where they showed a really tremendous impact on reducing sort of the withdrawal reflex, or how much pain that the mice felt. Alex, I don't think the mice wore the headphones, correct?
Alex: Actually yeah, that's really interesting research done at the U of U. And no, the mice did not wear headphones but those mice were exposed to the music of Mozart within the lab. They had an EEG sensor implanted in their brains, so they were reading their brain activity. They went through, there's a pain protocol in mice research that allows them to see three stages of pain response.
With the Mozart music, these mice did incredibly well. They were evaluating the use of music in combination with different drug therapies. So, they were looking at ibuprofen. They were looking at CBD and a couple prescriptive medications, and very interesting, the biggest impacts were with Mozart and ibuprofen for the pain profile they were looking at in that particular mouse study.
So, while that wasn't a study on the listening program, it does lay a foundation for the evidence of Mozart and certain music structures on pain treatment. Most of the music within the listening program is Mozart. What you bring up about the vagus nerve is very important, right? So, cranial nerve X, the vagus nerve, enervates every major organ except for the spleen. It's actually enervated in the ear, so meaning one of the access points to provide vagal nerve stimulation is in the ear itself.
So, when we deliver auditory input very specifically, especially low frequency sound, the vagus nerve carries that throughout the body, including this autonomic nervous system that we've been talking about, the second brain that we all possess, which we need to mention, which is the enteric brain. So, this is the enteric nervous system, which is the gut brain. So, that's the feeling brain and Tim, we often know that we feel something before we know something, right?
That gut sense of what's happening in the environment. Through the stimulation, we see people come in better connection with that gut and trusting their intuition and understanding what's happening in our world. The vagus nerve becomes a means in which to soothe and help regulate the nervous system and The Listening Program has been a beautiful tool to do that.
Another element of using music for pain is distraction. When we're listening to music, we're attending to something that takes our attention away from the pain. In addition to helping to lower stress levels, which can lower pain perception, when we listen to music it distracts our attention from the source of pain for temporary relief, which is very important, especially for people with chronic pain conditions.
Dr. Tim: To me, as a pain researcher, as a manual therapist, someone who deals with athletes, but also the general population with pain conditions, I think this is revolutionary because– And just to remind everyone, we are still in the midst of an opioid crisis that's hitting us like nothing like even we've had in the past. And as Alex mentioned, more people were actually starting to gravitate towards their old use of substances because of stress and COVID and so forth. And so, we become distracted by COVID and I think in some ways have forgotten about the huge opiate epidemic. And to me, I see this as a nice alternative. If we can utilize music therapy to reduce the use of opioids, to mitigate our pain, we just might be saving a few lives and preventing others from becoming addicted to opioids, which is one of the primary things that I always want to accomplish when I'm treating patients with pain.
Alex: Yeah. Tim, we've talked about doing some clinical trials around that topic and it's an area of great importance to me for very personal reasons within my family. A family member that many, many decades ago was lost due to their addiction to pain meds.
Dr. Tim: Yeah and unfortunately, too many of us have a close personal story, including myself. I have a close family member who has OD'd three times and has died and been brought back to life. Very sad story, but we hope that they will overcome their opioid addiction as they kind of work through this. However, with that being said, Alex, I'm sure you get this question all the time. So, we heard that the Mozart has a huge impact on pain in mice and we know that's really a foundational aspect of The Listening Program. Why not just listen to regular classic music versus acoustically modified music? I'm just curious for the listeners, why not just turn on classical music and just listen to that versus the other things that have been modified?
Alex: Well, you should do both.
Alex: Let's just start there. The important thing is that music has value in our lives, right? If music feels good to us, it is good for us regardless of the genre of music. So, foundationally, listen to great music that you enjoy and that you're drawn to. That's the right thing to do. So, the question with our work is why is The Listening Program different than similar music? And it goes down to a number of things. First of all, most music has been written as a means in which to express feelings or a story or to entertain. When we go to some of the origins of classical music, and we go to our most loved composer, Mozart, Mozart was being paid to write music that entertain the court, royalty, right?
So, he was a working artist and his job was to entertain and to delight. It just happened to be that there is a certain magic that came through Mozart that many believe maybe channeled from a higher power through him. I don't know the answer there, but beautiful compositions came through Mozart as well as Joseph Haydn and Antonio Vivaldi and other composers whose music we've recorded. The difference in what we're doing with The Listening Program is that we're taking the natural attributes of music that these composers wrote into their scores. Frequency, the tone of the sound, volume, or the amplitude, or the changing dynamics in the sound. Their use of temporal aspects or timing within the sound. The duration of notes or the space between notes and the spatiality, the perception of where the sound was and we're enhancing them.
So, we're taking the music and we're highlighting, and we're enhancing it in such a way that the brain can perceive it more easily. When the brain perceives it more easily, then it's getting added benefit. When you work with these elements, it's like going to the gym and it becomes brain exercise. So, we'll do different repetitions at different weights, with different sound frequencies in different volumes to train different neural networks based on what they need to perform at their best. So, it is brain training through this scientific design of the music, and it takes a lot of work to do that. You have to either do original composition or original arrangements of the music.
We need to record the music in a specific way at a certain quality level with the right instruments, microphones and the right environment. In the post-production after the recording, we sequence the music in very specific ways to help train and regulate the brain for each listening session. Within The Listening Program, the one thing that is very unique and different than listening to regular music is each 15 minutes session has what's called the ABC modular design. And the first five minutes are a warmup that's gradually training the brain, introducing different sound frequencies, subtle changes in volume, maybe slightly moving the sound between the left and the right ear to help you get a better perception of sound in your environment, moving into the B phase.
And it's slower tempos in the beginning in the B phase Raise the tempos, or the speed of the music. It's faster. There's a lot of volume dynamics, like fireworks going off in the music, that really activates the neurons and the sound frequencies that we're stimulating, and causing them to fire and connect to neurons through the dendrites that are surrounding them. And then, after we do that intensive training and we're getting that workout, we begin to slow the music back down and simplify it.
So, this ABC design is like a warm-up and workout cool-down that helps the brain self regulate and to train the brain. And to get it to change with permanency, you have to provide stimulus and you know this from your manual therapy work, Tim, at the right frequency, intensity, and duration. And you're over the course of decades; we've really been refining that right delivery of music so you are getting an amazing workout.
And I want you to think of the music and just reduce it to the bare minimum, like a tool. And I want you to think of the kettlebell. The kettlebell used in one way may have no or very little impact if it's not used correctly. In fact, it could harm you. A kettlebell used with the right sequence of movement with the right intensity and right period of time can completely transform a body. So, I want you to think of the listening program and the refined protocols like that kettlebell with the right routine versus that kettlebell sitting on the ground that may be used incorrectly.
Dr. Tim: Well, it truly sounds like a workout. The warm up, the actual program, and then the cool-down. It's very akin to those who want to work out in general their bodies, but I think often we work them out in separation. And one of the things that struck me in some of the research that you've done is that this actually improves performance.
For example, I read an article about cyclists, which I'm a cyclist so I was very, very attuned to this, that if we're playing music, particularly some of this neuromodulator music or acoustic modified music, above 90 beats per minute, we can decrease our heart rate. We can decrease our O2 consumption and it increases our time to fatigue.
But as you said earlier, if we go too loud, or if we go too hard, or that music's not quite right, as you found in this study, we can actually weaken the muscles. So, having the proper sound nutrition or prescription sounds to me like it's really critical in these aspects of getting the right workout and the appropriate workout at the right time.
Alex: Yeah, you're completely on point. And you bring this important concept up, Tim, and that is use music for a purpose, right? So, when we use music when we're cycling, or we use music during yoga or meditation, we're using that music to entrain our body and brain to a particular state of function or performance. And that's what the listening program does very systematically in different areas, touching in all areas of our brain, which in turn is touching all areas of our performance in our life.
Dr. Tim: And I just eat that up, because I'm a wannabe athlete. I'm a cyclist. But for all those of you out there who just want to improve your brain body connection and, as Alex said, entrain some of these states and functions that you want to promote, it's absolutely critical you link those two together, your brain and your body. And obviously music therapy is one way to do that. However, Alex, I'm aware that you're working on some other stuff right now. Can you talk about some of the recent stuff that you're working on? These projects and maybe your new company that you're pushing forward?
Alex: Yeah, and thanks for that opportunity, Tim. One, we'll start with a really exciting development in advanced brain technologies. And what we've always tried to do is touch as many lives as possible with the listening program and to make these methods more accessible and affordable so more lives can be touched. And just in these last two weeks, we've launched an entirely new web experience through the listening program online.
A subscription service and mobile apps with a completely rebuilt technology stack, which is going to allow us to touch a lot more people in a very elegant way. So, after three years of development, we're thrilled that that's been brought to the public and being shared with a new website, and content, and technology delivery. So, we're absolutely thrilled about that. And moving to Vital Neuro, over the years at ABT we've been exposed to incredible practitioners, scientists, and technologies.
And early on, a couple of years after starting ABT, I developed a friendship and a collegial relationship with a Dr. Kamran Fallahpour, who's a neuroscientist in Manhattan. We have done a number of projects over the years and shared a passion for brain plasticity and technology in art and music. And it really wanted to bring the work of Advanced Brain Technologies and his lab, the Brain Resource Company, together. And what Kamran's been doing at BRC for over 20 years is different neuromodulation therapies, particular brain mapping, and EEG neurofeedback.
And he is one of the pioneers of mobile neurofeedback with the first Bluetooth EEG amplifier over 15 years ago. And I've long had this vision of personalizing the music that you're listening to in response to real time neurophysiological changes via your heart rate, heart rate variability, galvanic skin response, or brain activity through EEG.
And what Kamran and I did is we founded a new company called Vital Neuro. And for the past four years, we've been building and testing a mobile neurofeedback system that at its foundation uses scientifically designed music to entrain the brain to a desired state, say, for example, relaxation, focus, or peak performance. And then, we're reading the brain activity in real time through customized wireless headphones.
And when we're reading that brain activity, we're seeing the signature in the brain for stress, for focus, or for peak performance, for example, and then feeding back to that individual specific, personalized sound frequencies that further train the brain to reinforce the desired state. So, what Vital Neuro is doing is giving a mirror for the brain to watch itself and to subtly change its activity and thus our behavior and response.
So, in 15 minutes – and I did two sessions this morning before I went to the gym and I do that every morning. I get my cup of coffee. I put my protein collagen powder in it and stir it up. And I sit down and I to two sessions are vital to lower my stress level and dial in my focus. And I feel incredible in the same dopamine reward network that we talked about, that social media, and alcohol, and narcotics, and other drugs of choice feed Vital Neuro can feed, but in a positive way to help change the brain for the good.
So, what we're doing is coming to market next year with a very exciting mobile experience that combines EEG neurofeedback in a very high quality wireless headphones with mobile applications to allow people to access what can cost 5, 10, 15, $20,000 in the clinic for an absolute fraction of the cost and do at home.
And from there through Vital, what we're really doing is building a foundation with this technology for mental health. And we have a full pipeline of products and services to come beyond that, but also partners and working with others in the field that are doing good in the work and to provide a place that centralizes access for assessment and for training and really to provide solutions for people with mental health issues, as well as neurological challenges or those that just want to improve their performance in life.
Dr. Tim: I am so excited. I cannot wait a year. I mean, did everyone hear that? And basically what Alex is saying, he's developed a technology to manipulate your brain and your autonomic nervous system and hence your somatic nervous system, all your muscles and so forth, with music in real time. And so, that, Alex, I believe is going to be a massive game changer in therapy if not our overall life. And so, we're super excited for that to come out for sure.
Alex: Well, so am I, Tim and this neuro – the term we like to use is neuroguided, right?
Dr. Tim: Neuroguided.
Alex: So, we're giving your brain input and reflecting back to the brain its own activity to change its own behavior. Okay? So, it's neuro-guided, so it's a very naturalistic process that's taking place. And I really see this not just as a therapeutic tool, but as a tool for accelerated wellness and a lifestyle product. What I want to see is technologies like Vital Neuro just being part of our lifestyle, right?
Something that we do every day and we don't even need to think about on. They become these tools of our daily routine for our health and our wellbeing, and we've had the fortunate opportunity to have some clinical research done, which has blown our minds, been able to test this with hundreds and hundreds of people and seeing amazing things, even in one session. So, we're just so excited to bring this to the world.
Dr. Tim: Well, we're excited to have you in the world, Alex, and obviously all your contributions. Where can individuals find you, and I guess these contributions? Where can they best find out about all this information and this great technology that can really revolutionize their lives?
Alex: Uh-huh. Yeah, I think that the best starting point, my personal website is alexdoman.com A-L-E-X D-O-M-A-N. And then, for advanced brain technologies, advancedbrain.com and for Vital Neuro, vitalneuro.com. And then, myself and the companies are on all the social media channels. So, those are great entry points for people to get oriented with our work. And you can sign up for mailing lists at Advanced Brain and Vital Neuro to get updates and learn about what's coming next.
Dr. Tim: That's great. So, Alex, I guess as a concluding thought or question, what impact do you want to have on humanity through your work, Alex?
Alex: Well, that's the way to go deep, Tim. No, I start my days with a meditation that touches on exactly that and my reason for being professionally and that transfers to my personal life, is to work to create a world that's going to be better for my children and my grandchildren and those of the rest of humanity. The world's a beautiful place and our planet's hurting, our people are hurting, and I want to have made an impact to help improve that situation. And a single life touched each day is incredibly meaningful. And over the course of my career to come, I hope to impact millions more.
Dr. Tim: Well, I can truly say we are grateful for your vision, your mission, and your contributions to humanity. And I believe they will be long felt for many, many years to come. And I truly believe as a therapist that I found the missing link here for a lot of our patients, a very complimentary therapy to not only improve their healing, but also to improve their performance and overall just improve their quality of life. So, thank you, Alex. Thank you for the work you've done and thank you for all the work you continue to do. And thank you for being on The In with us today.
Alex: Well, it's been an absolute delight, Tim, thank you so much for having me and for the amazing work that you're doing to help others. And thank you so much for putting this podcast together so you can get the good word out on things that make a difference.
Dr. Tim: That's what we're all about, Alex, getting the word out. All right, everyone up next, we're going to be talking about suicide and the impact of COVID and some real-life strategies that we can employ to really mitigate those. Take care. And we'll see you next time and listen to next time on The In.
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Duration: 63 minutes