Coping with Covid-19 through Music

Beyond the immediate health risks of the Covid-19 pandemic, the containment measures it necessitates have brought with them a number of other stressors that can undermine individual and collective well-being. As part of an international research project, the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics investigated whether musical engagement is an effective strategy for socio-emotional coping during lockdown.

The project team collected demographically representative samples from six countries on three continents during the first lockdown in April and May 2020. Over 5000 people from Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Italy, and the USA were asked in an online survey about how they engaged with music during the crisis. More than half of respondents reported using music to cope with emotional and social stressors.

“It’s worth noting that music itself wasn’t the coping aid, but rather, music-related behavior, specifically the ways people have adapted their musical behaviors during the crisis. In this regard, music listening and music making appear to provide different coping potentials,” explains Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics.

People who experienced increased negative emotions due to the pandemic were found to engage with music primarily as a way to regulate depression, fear, and stress, especially via music listening. People who reported more positive emotions overall were found to use music largely as a replacement for social interaction. Not just music listening, but also music making gave them a sense of belonging to a community. Making music, moreover, served as a method for self-reflection.

The novel genre of “coronamusic” is especially noteworthy. This term refers to musical responses to the coronavirus crisis, such as newly composed pieces, themed playlists, and famous well-known songs whose lyrics were changed to fit the pandemic. The research team found that the more interested respondents were in coronamusic, the more music listening and making seemed to help them cope emotionally and socially.

These findings underline the importance of real-time creative responses in times of crisis. New coronasongs offered a much-needed opportunity for collective response – and this made them even more useful for strengthening resilience of both the individual and the community. These findings therefore contribute to ongoing debates about the importance of music and culture in society.

Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

The First Ever REESE’S PUFFS Musical Cereal Box

Reach Guinto wrote . . . . . . . . .

Giving a whole new meaning to “playing” with your food, REESE’S PUFFS is turning its cereal boxes into special edition, first-ever series of music boxes. Dubbed the RP-FX and RP-PRO, these boxes can actually create real music, and REESE’S is encouraging fans to share their beats and creations to an accompanying app.

Here’s the details on each REESE’S PUFFS music box:

RP-FX

  • Comes in three limited-edition boxes: Crunchy Drum Machine, Creamy Lead Synth, and Chocolatey Bass Syth.
  • The music comes to life when fans add the REESE’S PUFFS on the back of the box and use an accompanying app on PuffsFX.com to create their beats.
  • RP-FX boxes use a first-of-its-kind augmented reality technology to detect where the PUFFS have been placed and make unique music tracks based off their placement.
  • Fans can get all three boxes to create different layers to the tracks.
  • RP-FX boxes are available now at grocery stores nationwide.

RP-PRO

  • The RP-PRO is an ultra-exclusive synthesizer, designed to look like a box of REESE’S PUFFS cereal but with all the music samples, audio effects, functions and power you’d expect from the most serious piece of music equipment.
  • It features custom REESE’S cup dials, custom-molded REESE’S PUFFS buttons along the bottom, chocolatey drum pads, a built-in sampler and a dome visualizer with menu. Plus a secret inside compartment to fit a small bag of REESE’S PUFFS cereal.
  • REESE’S PUFFS will be sending the RP-PRO to some of the top music artists and hit-makers around the country, as well as giving away a few to a couple lucky fans.

Source: FoodBeast

Vocal Music Boosts the Recovery of Language Functions After Stroke

Research has shown that listening to music daily improves language recovery in patients who have experienced a stroke. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the phenomenon have so far remained unknown.

A study conducted at the University of Helsinki and the Turku University Hospital Neurocenter compared the effect of listening to vocal music, instrumental music and audiobooks on the structural and functional recovery of the language network of patients who had suffered an acute stroke. In addition, the study investigated the links between such changes and language recovery during a three-month follow-up period. The study was published in the eNeuro journal.

Based on the findings, listening to vocal music improved the recovery of the structural connectivity of the language network in the left frontal lobe compared to listening to audiobooks. These structural changes correlated with the recovery of language skills.

“For the first time, we were able to demonstrate that the positive effects of vocal music are related to the structural and functional plasticity of the language network. This expands our understanding of the mechanisms of action of music-based neurological rehabilitation methods,” says Postdoctoral Researcher Aleksi Sihvonen.

Listening to music supports other rehabilitation

Aphasia, a language impairment resulting from a stroke, causes considerable suffering to patients and their families. Current therapies help in the rehabilitation of language impairments, but the results vary and the necessary rehabilitation is often not available to a sufficient degree and early enough.

“Listening to vocal music can be considered a measure that enhances conventional forms of rehabilitation in healthcare. Such activity can be easily, safely and efficiently arranged even in the early stages of rehabilitation,” Sihvonen says.

According to Sihvonen, listening to music could be used as a cost-efficient boost to normal rehabilitation, or for rehabilitating patients with mild speech disorders when other rehabilitation options are scarce.

After a disturbance of the cerebral circulation, the brain needs stimulation to recover as well as possible. This is the goal of conventional rehabilitation methods as well.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the time spent in hospital is not stimulating. At these times, listening to music could serve as an additional and sensible rehabilitation measure that can have a positive effect on recovery, improving the prognosis,” Sihvonen adds.

Source: University of Helsinki

Even on ‘Down’ Days, Music a Motivator for Runners

The key to pushing through mental fatigue while running might be adding some earbuds to your workout gear.

U.K. researchers worked with 18 fitness enthusiasts to determine the impact of music on running performance. They found that running to self-selected tunes improved runners’ performance when mentally fatigued during two separate tests.

“Mental fatigue is a common occurrence for many of us, and can negatively impact many of our day-to-day activities, including exercise,” said study author Shaun Phillips, of the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education and Sport.

The first test looked at the effects on interval running capacity — alternating between high-intensity running and lower-intensity jogging — on nine physically active exercisers. The second test involved a 3-mile time trial with nine runners.

The groups completed a 30-minute computer-based cognitive test that put them in a mentally fatigued state before completing high-intensity exercise. Researchers tested the runners both with and without self-selected motivational music after assisting the participants with a pre-test questionnaire that asked them to rate the rhythm, style, melody, tempo, sound and beat of the music.

Songs included Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Kanye West’s “Power” and Queens of the Strong Age’s “No One Knows.”

The researchers found the interval running capacity among the mentally fatigued fitness enthusiasts was greater with music compared to without music. It was the same as when the participants were not mentally fatigued.

The 3-mile time trial performances also showed small improvements with self-selected music versus no music.

The positive effects of music could potentially be due to altered perception of effort when listening to tunes, researchers said. This presents an opportunity for further study on how listening to music while running affects other groups of people, as well as in different exercise challenges. Research is ongoing at the University of Edinburgh.

“The findings indicate that listening to self-selected motivational music may be a useful strategy to help active people improve their endurance running capacity and performance when mentally fatigued,” Phillips said in a university news release. “This positive impact of self-selected music could help people to better maintain the quality and beneficial impact of their exercise sessions.”

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise.

Source: HealthDay

That Song Is Stuck in Your Head, but It’s Helping You to Remember

Karen Nikos-Rose wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you have watched TV since the ’90s, the sitcom theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” has likely been stuck in your head at one point or another. New research from UC Davis suggests these experiences are more than a passing nuisance — they play an important role in helping memories form, not only for the song, but also related life events like hanging out with friends — or watching other people hang with their friends on the ’90s television show, Friends.

“Scientists have known for some time that music evokes autobiographical memories, and that those are among the emotional experiences with music that people cherish most,” said Petr Janata, UC Davis professor of psychology and co-author on a new study.

What hasn’t been understood to date is how those memories form in the first place and how they become so durable, such that just hearing a bit of a song can trigger vivid remembering. — Petr Janata

The paper, “Spontaneous Mental Replay of Music Improves Memory for Incidentally Associated Event Knowledge,” was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Co-authors are Janata and Benjamin Kubit, a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience, both of the UC Davis Department of Psychology, and Center for Mind and Brain.

This new research offers an initial glimpse into these mechanisms and, somewhat surprisingly, finds that the songs that get stuck in your head help that process of strengthening memories as they first form, the authors said. Thus, this is the first research to link two of the most common phenomena people experience with music — earworms (having a song stuck in your head) and music-evoked remembering.

For their latest study, the researchers worked with 25 to 31 different people in each of three experiments, over three different days, spaced weeks apart. Subjects first listened to unfamiliar music, and then, a week later, listened to the music again, this time paired with likewise unfamiliar movie clips. In one instance, movies were played without music. The research subjects, all UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students, were subsequently asked to remember as many details as they could from each movie as the music played. They were also quizzed about their recollection of the associated tunes and how often they experienced each of the tunes as an earworm. None of them had formal music training.

Repetition and accuracy

The results: the more often a tune played in a person’s head, the more accurate the memory for the tune became and, critically, the more details the person remembered from the specific section of the movie with which the tune was paired.

With only one week between when they saw the movie, and when they were asked to remember as many details from the movie as they could while listening to the movie soundtrack, the effect of repeatedly experiencing a tune from the soundtrack as an earworm resulted in near-perfect retention of the movie details. These people’s memories, in fact, were as good as when they had first seen the movie. Additionally, most subjects were able to report what they were typically doing when their earworms occurred, and none of them mentioned the associated movies coming to mind at those times.

“Our paper shows that even if you are playing that song in your mind and not pulling up details of memories explicitly, that is still going to help solidify those memories,” Janata said.

“We typically think of earworms as random nuisance beyond our control, but our results show that earworms are a naturally occurring memory process that helps preserve recent experiences in long-term memory,” Kubit said.

The authors said they hope the research, which is ongoing, could eventually lead to the development of nonpharmaceutical, music-based interventions to help people suffering from dementia and other neurological disorders to better remember events, people and daily tasks.

Source: UC Davis