“I’m starting to yawn. It works!” says the engineer.

Bert-Jan Woertman falls under the spell of an unused Philips invention: headphones that take away stress. He may develop and market the product himself. The corona crisis strikes at the point of launch.

On a Friday afternoon, Bert-Jan Woertman (49) walks into the research department of electronics company Philips. He once worked there as a personnel officer, but he still occasionally visits it at the end of his working week at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven and then asks if anything exciting is happening. Engineer Ad Denissen has him put on headphones. It contains electrodes that record the activity in his brain.

“I have to listen to his playlist,” says Woertman. “He can measure how relaxed I feel through the electrodes.” Woertman listens to hard rock from the eighties (‘not my kind of music’) for ten minutes, slowly starts to yawn and asks what exactly happens. “It works,” says the engineer.

Surgeon and hypnotherapist
The invention is an algorithm, a computer code that changes the quality of music very slightly. A listener is not aware of this, but the brain responds to it in milliseconds. The brain becomes somewhat relaxed. In doing so, the brain creates a certain type of brain waves, which are measured with electrodes. Then the algorithm adjusts the music a little bit again. This continues until the brain is completely relaxed. That’s when Woertman starts yawning.

“I am immediately fascinated,” he says. “Philips may want to do something with it in the medical sector, but I see an application for people at home.” He writes a plan, but Philips does not want to license him.

Eight years later – Woertman has long since left Philips and has just registered as an independent entrepreneur – he comes across the same invention again. In a newsletter from the High Tech Campus, he reads that the electronics company is making its ‘neurofeedback technology’ available for an entrepreneurial competition on campus. He immediately recognizes the device that he once put on his head in the research lab.

Woertman forms a team with participants in the competition, and some old acquaintances: a hypnotherapist, a former purchaser, a serial entrepreneur who is also an artist and a surgeon. “Everyone is excited,” he says. “After three weeks, we have a business plan. And Philips gave us permission to get started with their patent. ”

Gyroscope
He will then be included in HighTechXL, the special start-up program of the campus. With the help of lawyers, business coaches and some money, the team has to set up a business in a few months. In December 2019, AlphaBeats, as the company is now known, will be assessed for the first time by, among others, Philips and ASML. The team already has a prototype that no longer needs to read brain waves. A smartphone is enough. When placed on the abdomen, it can measure through breath whether the body is under stress. This is done with the gyroscope (a motion meter) that is in almost every modern mobile phone.

Woerman is allowed to continue, and in March he will receive another positive assessment. The four-person company remains with HighTechXL, but is now also allowed to approach external investors. Then the crisis strikes. Agreements with investors are canceled.

Stress in corona time
“Fortunately, we are in the middle of the High Tech Campus,” says Woertman. “This corporate network keeps us going. We are now being prepared for a round of discussions with investors via video connections. The documents for the license agreement with Philips, the notary documents for your own private limited company, the accountant’s statement, everything is ready. And we are applying for the government’s special corona measures. ”

Woertman is convinced that the product is ready at exactly the right time. “Stress is an increasingly social problem,” he says. “Especially during the coronavirus.”

Read the original article here

How science tries to get a grip on the stress level of modern people – through music

People nowadays lead a hectic life. The demands of the environment are increasing and we want to meet all those expectations. Career prospects, personal ambitions, and social pressure are the basis for this. We are lucky that our bodies are quite flexible: to a certain extent, we adapt to the changing circumstances. For example, we eat more salted chips, because that increases our blood pressure and makes us better able to cope with the demands of our environment. But of course, the question is what the effects are on our body in the long run; there certainly will be more people with chronically raised blood pressure, with all its consequences for cardiovascular diseases. There are all kinds of health aspects to chronic stress that form a challenging field of work for scientists.

Geert van Boxtel, Tilburg University

Geert van Boxtel, an associate professor in cognitive neuropsychology at Tilburg University, is one of those scientists. He has been researching the relationship between the brain and our behavior since the 1980s. For quite some time he was mainly concerned with the theoretical aspects, to find out all about the biological foundations of behavior. “You’d like to unravel mankind just like you can take apart an old-fashioned alarm clock, to see how it all functions.” But that’s easier said than done, Van Boxtel admits. “My motivation in all my research is always to get a better understanding of what people are like. But more and more I have shifted from the purely theoretical to the more application-oriented research. So the question arose whether you can not only make the measurement of stress more reliable on the basis of more knowledge of the biological systems but also how to apply this knowledge meaningfully into something that can benefit large groups of people.”

While searching for answers, Van Boxtel also came into contact with Philips Research and the Electrical Engineering faculty of the TU Eindhoven. “Electrical engineering can do things that psychology can’t, and vice versa. Together with TU/e’s Jan Bergmans, we explored the field of neurofeedback: in a number of projects, we investigated the interaction between brain and behavior. At a certain point, we also started to involve the effect of music on this.” Among other things, it led to the doctoral research of Marian Dekker and – more recently – the creation of Alphabeats, a startup that uses music to de-stress the brain.

Yoga or fishing

But how does that actually work, music as a way to control your stress level? Van Boxtel: “To answer that question, we first have to take a few steps back. Suppose you have a problem with your heart. Your cardiologist will then instruct you to avoid stress as much as possible. Well meant of course, but the question is: how do you do that? The problem you run into is that there is no generic answer to that question. It’s all very personal. For example, one person will feel better when performing yoga, and another will rather go out fishing. But the question remains: do you actually create real peace in your head in this way? Even while fishing or meditating, you may still be extremely excited. So then it’s interesting to know if you can measure stress and if you can trace that back to the person in question, in a thermostat-like feedback system. Because what we already know is that people let themselves be influenced by feedback.”

Still, the measuring is just not as simple as it sounds, says Van Boxtel. “You can measure the heart rate and then find that there is more stress when the heart rate is high, but you could confuse cause and effect. An example that I always like to give is about running, something I used to love doing until I got an ankle injury. Now suppose that injury is suddenly gone and I would start running again. If you would ask me how I feel after a nice run in the park, that would most certainly be a 9 on a 10-point-scale, so happy I would be that I could be running again. But my heartbeat would still be going in all directions because, of course, my physical condition is lousy. Whoever would do a heartbeat measurement at that moment, could wrongly conclude that I am enormously stressed. That’s exactly the problem with stress: we learn more and more about it, but there is so much individuality in it that the examination becomes very difficult. The same factors do something very different for you than they do for me.”

Control over your alpha waves

Maybe music could add that necessary individual element, was Van Boxtel’s assumption at one point. “Most people can enjoy their favorite music enormously. Now try to imagine that you can connect the information from your heartbeat or brain activity with the musical experience. For example, by ‘translating’ a higher heart rate into a poorer quality of the music and by making the music sound beautiful and full when the heart rate is lower. On the basis of this idea, we conducted a number of pilots in Marian Dekker’s research. The idea was to give people control over the alpha waves in their brains. For that purpose, we asked people to sit in an easy chair, relax, and listen to their own favorite music. Philips Research helped to manipulate the music: certain tones were filtered if the test subjects showed a bad alpha rhythm, and they were played in the right way if their alpha rhythm was good again. And that actually worked surprisingly well – and fast. We were able to show that everyone is able to adjust their alpha rhythm quite easily that way.”

The first step had been taken, but Van Boxtel and his colleagues weren’t there yet. The crucial question remained: does changing your alpha rhythm also lead to an adjusted stress level? “Of course, proof of controlling one’s stress level remained the ultimate goal. But that turned out to be a lot harder to prove reliably. Not surprising, because the stress level is a very subjective thing and the brain is such a complex system. So then we thought: if we wouldn’t focus on the brain but on the cardiovascular system, on heart rate and blood pressure, what then? It has long been known that the more stressed you are, the more regular your heartbeat becomes. Yes, the heart tends to beat faster, but under mental pressure, it also starts beating more regularly. In addition, there appears to be a certain periodicity; an important one is an interval of 10 seconds or 0.1 Hertz. Next to that, you see another one that is more related to your breathing; that is an interval of 3 seconds. The 0.3 Hertz variant.”

Science, commerce, and patents

Previous studies had already shown that this 10-second periodicity is a very nice natural rhythm. So Van Boxtel continued to build on that. “We went to see what would happen when you would bring people into that slow 10-second breathing rhythm. So you go from 0.3 Hertz to 0.1 Hertz and theoretically you would do the right things for your cardiovascular system. The Alphabeats app is now built on that assumption. In the tests, this turns out to work very well after just ten minutes. How exactly? Similar to Marian Dekker’s research, Alphabeats makes the music sound good when you’re in the desired breathing rhythm, and bad when you’re in the wrong rhythm”. This takes Van Boxtel’s research a step further, but the question still remains as to what the measurable effect is on the experienced relaxation, and whether this is better therapy than others, such as mindfulness or yoga. “Moreover: if you just sit down with headphones for 10 minutes, then you would also already be relaxing. So now the question is: what exactly does the Alphabeats addition contribute to the extent to which you can relax? More research is needed to find that out.”

And so for the time being there will be no end to the collaboration between Van Boxtel’s research group, Alphabeats and Philips Research. “For me, it’s interesting to link my scientific knowledge to their more commercial applications, because at the end that also provides us with new knowledge. Actually, it’s an ideal collaboration: Philips Research’s goal can be to find new patents, for Alphabeats commercial success is important, and I focus on relevant publications to increase scientific knowledge.”

Read the original article here

Alphabeats offers the IO-audience the opportunity to be among the first beta users of the anti-stress app

They call it “life’s most essential skill – the ability to switch off and relax, where and when you want”. We featured them as ‘start-up of the Day‘ earlier this year. Now, the makers of AlphaBeats, an app that guides your brain into ‘alpha mode’ while listening to your favourite music, are inviting visitors of Innovation Origins to beta-test the app. On a first-come-first-serve basis, an exclusive group of people gets the opportunity to try it out.

AlphaBeats builds on 8 years of neurofeedback research by companies at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. “After testing the solution at the Tilburg University, showing that Alphabeats is two times more effective in getting people relaxed than listening to music alone, we have now turned this revolutionary technology into an easy to use solution for the rapidly growing number of people suffering from stress and burn-out complaints”, co-founder Bert-Jan Woertman says.

“Music has a powerful effect on your mind. Many people already use it to relax and unwind to cope with speeding life. Listening to your favourite tunes gets you in a good mood. But listening to normal music only goes so far. We figured that it would be even better if the relaxation effect was enhanced, so you could really relax, even in the most stressful of times.”

According to Woertman, the AlphaBeats App helps your mind to regulate itself, without the need for you to engage consciously. The combination of audio neurofeedback and implicit learning, are amplifying the relaxation effect of one’s favourite music. “With AlphaBeats the brain can “hear” what the brain is doing, creating a lever to internally regulate your mind. You just sit back, hit ‘play’ and your brain is guided intuitively into relaxation.”

Want to join the beta-test? Click here.

Read the original article here

Entrepreneurs of ‘De Vooruitgang’ – Startup makes your brain stress-free with beats

Hearing music can make your brain stress-free. Eindhoven startup AlphaBeats has developed a system that uses your own music to relax the brain even more, writes Innovation Origins. The brain and heart activity is monitored in real-time and based on these measurements an algorithm adjusts the music slightly.

This allows the brain to be in “alpha mode” within ten minutes. This is a relaxed state where the brain produces waves at a lower frequency. AlphaBeats wants to combat stress, the disease of our time. “We live in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax,” said AlphaBeats CMO Han Dirkx.

Read the original article here

Start-up AlphaBeats uses music to de-stress the brain

A biofeedback technology to release the modern world from stress: AlphaBeats has built a system that uses a person’s favourite music to relax their brain. Based on real-time monitoring of brain and heart activity, an algorithm enables a slight modification of the music, enticing the brain to go into an “alpha mode” and relax.

AlphaBeats claims it can guide your brain into the alpha mode in just 10 minutes. Alpha stands for alpha waves, waves produced when your brain is relaxed. AlphaBeats has been working inside the Eindhoven based HighTechXL accelerator, for some months now, and used XL Day for their first public announcement. “We are living in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax”, said AlphaBeats CMO Han Dirkx, on stage at XL Day. “Our brain and nervous system live in a perpetual state of arousal and stimulation. And we hardly give ourselves the opportunity to truly relax.” Innovation Origins spoke with AlphaBeats CEO Bert-Jan Woertman.

What’s the problem you are dealing with?
It’s all about this disease of modern times: stress. Just for the fun of it, we recently did a quick web search for ‘relax’. It confirms what we all already know. Our Google search came up with 891,000,000 responses. 891,000,000! This number and a quick scan of the results tell me that we are desperately looking for ways to unplug, unwind and reconnect with ourselves. And all together, we may be going about it the wrong way. But at the same time, it’s hard not to fall into the stress trap. We are surrounded by distractions like our smartphones and social media. In the words of T.S. Eliot, we find ourselves ‘distracted from distraction by distraction.’ With more and more of the world’s population suffering from stress-related conditions, it’s clear that we must all be more proactive in fighting stress.

BJ

Bert-Jan Woertman, CEO AlphaBeats

Yes, we can recognize that. So, what is your solution?
Music has a powerful effect on the mind, helping us relax and unwind to cope with the turbo-speed pace of life. Listening to your favourite tunes puts you in a good mood but listening to “normal” music only goes so far to relieve stress.
AlphaBeats enhances the relaxation effect, so you can really relax, even when experiencing high-stress levels. We have the technology to counter stress and bring balance back to your life. Using technology developed at Philips, AlphaBeats combines music augmented with neurofeedback. Simply put, AlphaBeats amplifies the relaxation effect of music. Using AlphaBeats regularly over a period of time changes your brain’s reactions to the world around you. Using our patented biofeedback solution, you learn to guide your brainwaves to the desired state – relaxation – by listening to your own favourite music.

Tell us more about the technology
Our product measures real-time brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) that analyses your brainwave patterns associated with stress. Also, biofeedback through your heart rate variability or breath can be used. As you listen and relax, AlphaBeats measures this activity, gently increasing the quality of the music enticing you to relax a little more, and more and more. Combining the two enables you to slow down and quickly reach a state of deep relaxation.

Important to say that this is not something we just imagined. Our solution has been scientifically validated in four years of PhD research by Marian Dekker at Tilburg University.

Do you need a special device for these analyses?
For now, all you need is an app you can download on your smartphone. It measures the breathing of the user and very soon it will also show your heart rate variability and after that an EEG that will show brain activity. This allows us to ‘see’ how tense someone is. Based on these real-time measurements, our patented algorithm adapts your own favourite music in such a way that your brain reacts with relaxation. We can get heart rate and EEG from coupling with smart wearables like watches and headsets.

Ok, don’t blame me, but I am a fan of Arctic Monkeys. How would they sound using AlphaBeats?
Based on the bio and neurofeedback, the audio frequency of your music will be adjusted. Depending on how relaxed or stressed you are, the music is adapted. The best thing – even for an Arctic Monkeys fan – is that you may not hear the difference yourself, but your brain does. In this way it learns implicitly, so without conscious clues, to relax.

You just started. How do you plan to conquer the world?
We want to start testing with the first large group of interested people in January. About 300 people – that’s 82% of the people we have asked – have indicated that they would like to participate and think with us about developing the app and the user experience. After that, we want to grow quickly through these ambassadors, worldwide. We think this is feasible. People suffer from stress and are looking for solutions. The mindfulness market has been growing tremendously for years. We have a brand new solution. And because we don’t need our own hardware, we can grow very fast.

Our ultimate goal is that we help people relax easily and quickly in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and come back to themselves, wherever and whenever they want. Now, too many people go on for too long and that causes all kinds of problems that start small, but get bigger and bigger. Businesswise, our ultimate goal is a partnership with Spotify and Apple Music and wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit and Muse. Think of ‘AlphaBeats inside’.

Read the original article here

Start-up of the Day: AlphaBeats uses music to de-stress the brain

A biofeedback technology to release the modern world from stress: AlphaBeats has built a system that uses a person’s favourite music to relax their brain. Based on real-time monitoring of brain and heart activity, an algorithm enables a slight modification of the music, enticing the brain to go into an “alpha mode” and relax.

AlphaBeats claims it can guide your brain into the alpha mode in just 10 minutes. Alpha stands for alpha waves, waves produced when your brain is relaxed. AlphaBeats has been working inside the Eindhoven based HighTechXL accelerator, for some months now, and used XL Day for their first public announcement. “We are living in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax”, said AlphaBeats CMO Han Dirkx, on stage at XL Day. “Our brain and nervous system live in a perpetual state of arousal and stimulation. And we hardly give ourselves the opportunity to truly relax.” Innovation Origins spoke with AlphaBeats CEO Bert-Jan Woertman.

What’s the problem you are dealing with?

It’s all about this disease of modern times: stress. Just for the fun of it, we recently did a quick web search for ‘relax’. It confirms what we all already know. Our Google search came up with 891,000,000 responses. 891,000,000! This number and a quick scan of the results tell me that we are desperately looking for ways to unplug, unwind and reconnect with ourselves. And all together, we may be going about it the wrong way. But at the same time, it’s hard not to fall into the stress trap. We are surrounded by distractions like our smartphones and social media. In the words of T.S. Eliot, we find ourselves ‘distracted from distraction by distraction.’ With more and more of the world’s population suffering from stress-related conditions, it’s clear that we must all be more proactive in fighting stress.

Yes, we can recognize that. So, what is your solution?

Music has a powerful effect on the mind, helping us relax and unwind to cope with the turbo-speed pace of life. Listening to your favourite tunes puts you in a good mood but listening to “normal” music only goes so far to relieve stress. AlphaBeats enhances the relaxation effect, so you can really relax, even when experiencing high-stress levels. We have the technology to counter stress and bring balance back to your life. Using technology developed at Philips, AlphaBeats combines music augmented with neurofeedback. Simply put, AlphaBeats amplifies the relaxation effect of music. Using AlphaBeats regularly over a period of time changes your brain’s reactions to the world around you. Using our patented biofeedback solution, you learn to guide your brainwaves to the desired state – relaxation – by listening to your own favourite music.

Tell us more about the technology

Our product measures real-time brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) that analyses your brainwave patterns associated with stress. Also, biofeedback through your heart rate variability or breath can be used. As you listen and relax, AlphaBeats measures this activity, gently increasing the quality of the music enticing you to relax a little more, and more and more. Combining the two enables you to slow down and quickly reach a state of deep relaxation.

Important to say that this is not something we just imagined. Our solution has been scientifically validated in four years of PhD research by Marian Dekker at Tilburg University.

Do you need a special device for these analyses?

For now, all you need is an app you can download on your smartphone. It measures the breathing of the user and very soon it will also show your heart rate variability and after that an EEG that will show brain activity. This allows us to ‘see’ how tense someone is. Based on these real-time measurements, our patented algorithm adapts your own favourite music in such a way that your brain reacts with relaxation. We can get heart rate and EEG from coupling with smart wearables like watches and headsets.

Ok, don’t blame me, but I am a fan of Arctic Monkeys. How would they sound using AlphaBeats?

Based on the bio and neurofeedback, the audio frequency of your music will be adjusted. Depending on how relaxed or stressed you are, the music is adapted. The best thing – even for an Arctic Monkeys fan – is that you may not hear the difference yourself, but your brain does. In this way it learns implicitly, so without conscious clues, to relax.

You just started. How do you plan to conquer the world?

We want to start testing with the first large group of interested people in January. About 300 people – that’s 82% of the people we have asked – have indicated that they would like to participate and think with us about developing the app and the user experience. After that, we want to grow quickly through these ambassadors, worldwide. We think this is feasible. People suffer from stress and are looking for solutions. The mindfulness market has been growing tremendously for years. We have a brand new solution. And because we don’t need our own hardware, we can grow very fast.

Our ultimate goal is that we help people relax easily and quickly in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and come back to themselves, wherever and whenever they want. Now, too many people go on for too long and that causes all kinds of problems that start small, but get bigger and bigger. Businesswise, our ultimate goal is a partnership with Spotify and Apple Music and wearables like Apple Watch, Fitbit and Muse. Think of ‘AlphaBeats inside’.

Read the original article here

New company in Eindhoven: fighting stress with your own music

EINDHOVEN – The newly founded company AlphaBeats will launch a product to help people with stress and burnout symptoms.

It is a mobile phone application that is able to change music based on bio-feedback like heart rate, breathing and brain waves to become more soothing. The Eindhoven based company uses an existing technology that was invented and patented by Philips.

Measure brain waves with headband
According to AlphaBeats founder Bert-Jan Woertman, brain waves are measured with a headband. Breathing and heart rate can be measured by a mobile phone or a smartwatch. “After measuring it is only a matter of putting on your favorite music, which will completely relax your brain. The changes in tone frequency, which are barely audible, are registered by the brain. In hospitals, the system is already used for patients with ADD and autism. The difference is that we put it in an app and made it accessible to people who suffer from stress and burnout.”

“Medicine” for the tense mind
Woertman says that music turns into a “medicine” for the tense mind. “After four years of research, scientific validation and more than 500 live demonstrations, our solution is ready for use in the rapidly growing mindfulness market. It is simple and fast. Best of all, it uses your own favorite music. Based on heart rate, breathing and brain waves, we know how “stressed” someone is. Our algorithm adjusts the music, based on those measurements, in such a way that your brain responds with relaxation. In short, it means that we reward the brain for relaxation. We use the principle of implicit learning, learning by doing, without conscious instructions on how to do it. So sit back, put music on and our algorithm and your brain do the rest of the work. ”

AlphaBeats wants to start a commercial test of the system in February to later bring it to the market, possibly with partners such as Spotify and Apple.

Read the original article here

Eindhoven-based startup AlphaBeats develops new tech to help you relax and beat stress

In this world of constant engagement and stresses, it can get difficult to take some time out and relax. While there are many ways to unwind and get a step ahead of burnout, we don’t really know how well they work. Now, the Eindhoven-based startup AlphaBeats has come up with a new technology that can quantify if you really are relaxed and if not, it can help you wind down. The new technology aims at enabling stress management and is based on neurofeedback. 

Measuring real-time brain activity

Anyone hardly thinks about any scientific parameters while taking a break, whereas AlphaBeats measures real-time brain activity. When we relax, our brain emits alpha waves and the startup has come up with a new biofeedback technology that measures real-time brain activity and the company’s algorithm modifies a person’s music to help them relax. This is apparently done in just 10 minutes. 

“We live in a world that seems to have forgotten how to relax,” says Han Dirkx, AlphaBeats’ CMO. “Our brain and nervous system live in a perpetual state of arousal and stimulation. And we hardly give ourselves the opportunity to truly relax.” The new stress management solution was recently showed off at HighTechXL´s XL Day where Dirkx shared results of four years of scientific validation at the Tilburg University, which is said to show AlphaBeats being twice as effective in helping people relax as compared to simply listening to music.

AlphaBeats uses the listener’s favourite music and via neurofeedback and implicit learning, the music is amplified into ‘mental meds’. “With AlphaBeats the brain can “hear” what the brain is doing, creating a lever to internally regulate your mind without the need for you to engage consciously. You just sit back and play your favourite Spotify or Apple Music playlist, and your brain is guided intuitively into relaxation. Do this every day for four weeks and you’ll have mastered life’s most essential skill: the ability to relax,” the company says in a media release. 

Read the original article here

Less stress thanks to technology?

Technology not only changes your work, but also how you organize your life around your work. This can be seen during Dutch Design Week. From autonomous driving to the office to gadgets that reduce your stress.

During Dutch Design Week, Bright is looking for special concepts that combine technology and design, including those at the Manifestations expo. In this video, we look at tomorrow’s workday. Anic tests an anti-burnout room, and Erwin tries headphones that transmit sound through your skull.

Watch the video here