DigitalTrends CES 2021 interview

digitaltrends alphabeats

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands 12 january 2021. DigitalTrends by Andy Boxall

“Music is the carrier for our ‘medicine,’” Han Dirkx, the CEO of AlphaBeats, cryptically told Digital Trends in an interview over Google Meet during CES 2021. AlphaBeats’ “medicine” is an algorithm derived from research into neurofeedback that’s injected into the music we listen to and affects our brain waves in such a way that our brain is trained to relax more effectively.

Read the whole interview in Digitaltrends

BNR news radio interview

AMSTERDM, Netherlands 5 January 2021 (interview only in Dutch)

Pur CEO Han Dirkx was invited to join the new BNR Nieuwsradio program ‘in de middag’ with their hosts Roos Abelman and Donatello Piras. Roos listens to Dolly Parton to relax and Donatello loves Albinoni to chill.

Han explained that for AlphaBeats it doesn’t matter which music you favour to relax, we just multiply this effect.

Listen whole interview with Han Dirkx about AlphaBeats (duration: 2 min)

NPO radio 1 De Nieuws BV | Nóg meer relaxen door muziek

HILVERSUM, Nederland 23 december 2020 (only in Dutch)

Even lekker tot rust komen met je eigen muziek, dat is wat de Eindhovense startup AlphaBeats je wil laten ervaren, of het nou muziek van Einaudi, Frans Duits, DJ Paul of Sepultra is. En met behulp van Artificial Intelligence kan dat binnenkort, zeker na een flinke financiële injectie die het bedrijf deze week kreeg. In de studio CEO van AlphaBeats, Han Dirkx.

Luister en kijk het hele interview dat Natasja Gibbs had met Han Dirkx over AlphaBeats (duur: 7 min)

LUMO Labs announces significant seed investment in healthtech venture AlphaBeats

Team AlphaBeats

EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands LUMO Labs, the early stage investment fund, announces an investment in the healthtech startup AlphaBeats. The startup has exclusive rights to a technology developed by Philips that combines biofeedback technology with music to drastically reduce the effects of stress. With this, the company fights the other epidemic that is less visible than Covid-19, namely stress.

AlphaBeats will join the LUMO Labs two-year venture builder program and use this new investment round for market validation with initial market traction in 18-24 months.

“In addition to seeking a financial return for our investors, we invest in startups that have substantial social impact. It would be great if we can realize this,” said LUMO Labs Founding Partner Andy Lürling. “As stress is considered THE health epidemic of the 21st century, we contribute by investing in AlphaBeats. It fits perfectly in our health and well-being focus.”

AlphaBeats has the sole, exclusive agreement with Philips to use the electronics giant’s audio neurofeedback algorithm. That algorithm, combined with artificial intelligence, uses biofeedback signals to enhance the user’s favorite music. As you relax, music fidelity increases. 

“We all know music has a powerful effect on the mind. Many people already use it to relax and unwind, to cope with the turbo-speed of  life. With AlphaBeats, we multiply that effect,” said AlphaBeats CEO Han Dirkx. “Using AI, our solution is three times more effective than listening to your favorite music alone, and after four weeks, a person’s ability to relax dramatically improves.”

A strategic collaboration with several German parties enables the Dutch AlphaBeats team, among other things, to measure heart rate variability on a cell phone in addition to breathing. 

“AlphaBeats uses this to analyze your real-time brain activity,” explains CMO, co-founder and surgeon Dr. Jur Vellema. “The patented algorithm then adjusts your favorite music to bring your brain into a relaxed state: alpha mode. This adjustment is done very subtly to prevent users from being annoyed by the changes in their favorite music. And best of all, you don’t necessarily have to invest in a nice wearable one. You can just use your cell phone and headphones. This means we don’t have to develop any hardware ourselves.”

AlphaBeats was founded in 2019 as part of HighTechXL’s deep-tech venture builder program and currently is located in Building 27 at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. LUMO Labs is in Building 6a, about 200 meters away, “so they won’t have to hire a moving van,” said Lürling.

“Our collaboration with LUMO Labs on AlphaBeats is a great example of connecting the innovation chain for startups in the Brainport region,” said HighTechXL CEO John Bell. “HighTechXL builds deep-tech ventures that solve societal challenges, whereas LUMO Labs takes over the baton from us and develops AlphaBeats further on its growth curve. The strengths and networks of LUMO Labs and HighTechXL complement each other, therefore we expect to see more collaboration with LUMO Labs in the future.”

About LUMO Labs:
LUMO Labs creates opportunities for impact-driven software and smart hardware startups. The current LUMO Fund II is a €20M impact-driven multi-stage capital fund (pre-seed up to and including Series A). It includes a two-year venture builder program to support its portfolio companies in gaining financial success as well as social traction and impact.

LUMO Labs funds startups that align with at least one of the three United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable Cities & Communities, Good Health & Well-Being and Quality Education. Its investment focus includes Artificial Intelligence/Data, Blockchain, Internet of Things, Robotics and Drones and Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality.

LUMO Labs advocates self-determination and traceable ownership of data and transparency and traceability of technologies. 

LUMO Labs, founded in 2016 by Andy Lürling and Sven Bakkes, is based at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Netherlands and has a strategic outpost at Phase Two in Los Angeles, CA. For more information, visit

Note for editors:
LUMO Labs spokesperson is Andy Lürling. E: or T: +31 6 18 47 99 99

About AlphaBeats:
AlphaBeats, founded in 2019, is an Eindhoven-based healthtech venture that uses Philips technology and implicit learning to lower stress by a factor of three by listening to music as little as 10 minutes per day. AlphaBeats directly improves quality of life, making users feel more fit and healthy and gives them a higher level of resilience.

Note for editors: 
AlphaBeats’ spokesperson is Han Dirkx. E: or T: +31 6 45 79 00 13
For more information, visit

About HighTechXL:
HighTechXL is a deep-tech venture builder located at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. An initiative of the Eindhoven Startup Alliance, HighTechXL scouts advanced technologies developed at world-renowned research centers such as CERN, European Space Agency, TNO and Philips. HighTechXL recruits tech and business talent to build companies focused on tackling grand societal challenges the world faces today.

Fast Moving Targets (dutch video)

Vlog met co-founder Bert-Jan Woertman

De uitvinding dateert al van meer dan tien jaar geleden, maar de startup AlphaBeats probeert er op dit moment een succes van te maken: mensen helpen te ontspannen met behulp van muziek. En dan niet klaterende beekjes of vage new age klanken, maar je eigen favoriete muziek. “Van Bach tot Rammstein. Op basis van metingen van de spanning in je hoofd passen we de muziek zodanig aan dat jouw brein naar ontspanning wordt geleid. Het komt erop neer dat we je brein belonen, als het gaat ontspannen”, aldus co-founder Bert-Jan Woertman.

AlphaBeats opereert vanuit Brainport Eindhoven. Daar zijn meer bedrijven met uitvindingen rondom het brein en gezondheid bezig. Het gaat dan vaak om hardware, maar in dit geval betreft het software. “We zitten heel veel hier, maar ook vaak in Amsterdam. Daar hebben ze in het algemeen meer verstand van software, maar we zitten net zo makkelijk in Berlijn te praten waar mensen zitten met kennis van digital healthcare. We gebruiken alle netwerken. We proberen op die manier de juiste mensen wereldwijd te betrekken.”

AlphaBeats denkt een oplossing te hebben gevonden voor een groot maatschappelijk probleem: stress. “De maatschappij gaat alleen maar sneller, de stress gaat niet verdwijnen. Wij kunnen je helpen om dat aan te pakken, om dat te verbeteren.”“Wetenschappelijk aangetoond dat het werkt ”

Je eigen favoriete muziek wordt heel subtiel aangepast op het moment dat je onvoldoende ontspannen bent. De spanning kan op drie manieren worden gemeten: met de hartslag, de ademhaling en hersengolven. “Alledrie zijn voldoende voor ons algoritme om aan de slag te gaan met jouw muziek op zo’n manier dat je gaat ontspannen.”

Verschil met bestaande methodes: je hoeft zelf niks bewust te doen. “Jouw brein reageert vanzelf. Het gaat als het ware automatisch tunen om die goede muziek te vinden. We hebben 4 jaar onderzoek gedaan met de Universiteit van Tilburg en ook wetenschappelijk aangetoond dat het werkt. Het is bijna drie  keer zo effectief als gewoon luisteren naar muziek en dat is al ontspannend. Na vier weken dagelijks 10 minuten is er een blijvend effect. Dan heb je jouw capaciteit om je stress te managen blijvend verbeterd.”

Aanvankelijk werd gedacht dat er hardware voor moest worden gebouwd. “Maar toen kwamen we er via de uitvinder achter dat alles ook gewoon met de eigen telefoon kon. Daarmee kun je je hartslag meten. Je kunt dus allemaal eigen spullen gebruiken: je eigen koptelefoon, telefoon en playlist. Het is nog niet te koop maar je kunt je nu inschrijven voor de Beta Test.” Deze maand zal eerst een wat kleinere alfa test worden gedaan, waarna zo snel mogelijk een uitgebreide beta test zal volgen. De focus zal aanvankelijk liggen op ontspanning, maar het is niet ondenkbaar dat in de toekomst ook andere gemoedstoestanden zullen volgen.“Van depressief naar vrolijk ”

“Dat is precies de ambitie op de lange termijn. Spanning en ontspanning kunnen wij nu meten via alpha golven, ademhaling en hartslag. Waneer dat echt goed werkt kunnen we het algoritme mogelijk ook aan het werk zetten om jou naar focus te brengen, om jou naar meer vrolijkheid te brengen en op termijn misschien zelfs wel naar vrolijk in plaats van depressief. Dat heeft te maken met een goede meting. Pas dan kunnen we het alpha ritme wijzigen om je naar de gewenste gemoedstoestand te kunnen brengen.” AlphaBeat wil een oplossing worden naast alle andere mindfulness oplossingen.

Bang zijn dat AlphaBeats je ook onbewust kan beïnvloeden om ongewenst gedrag te vertonen, denk bijvoorbeeld aan koopgedrag bevorderen, hoeft niemand te zijn. “Het systeem werkt niet via boxen en het werkt ook niet algemeen. Jouw brein reageert anders dan dat van iemand anders. Dus we hebben de informatie uit jouw brein nodig dat we via een gesloten feedbackloop moeten laten werken op jouw brein.”

Woertman is naast betrokken bij AlphaBeats ook actief op andere terreinen in Eindhoven en omstreken. “Het is gewoon hele duidelijke afspraken maken met je team. Misschien schrijf ik straks wel het boek: je kunt 100 dingen tegelijk doen en ook nog een startup beginnen. Volgens mij heeft niemand het recept voor een succesvolle startup. Er zijn wel een aantal dingen waarvan je weet dat ze werken: netwerk, leeftijd, ervaring. Daar is allemaal wetenschappelijk bewijs voor. Dat heeft ons team allemaal met mijzelf in de rol van vrije middenvelder en verbinder.”

Wie mee wil doen aan de beta test kan zich hier melden

(Een verslag van @daalder)

High Tech Podcast (dutch video)

How can you use tech to feel better in your own skin?

What does this corona crisis do to us? With our bodies and in our heads? Whether the impact you experience is small or large; the world now looks very different. More and more tech startups are focusing on mental health; how can you use high tech to feel better about yourself? For example, a smart lamp that allows you to work more effectively, get used to a healthier and more conscious life thanks to serious gaming or what do you think of the combination of tech & music to get into relax mode?

In this video podcast we talk to Maarten Voorhuis of Sparckel, Chantal Linders of Greenhabit & Han Dirkx of AlphaBeats:

Read the original article here

Jur Vellema, the orthopedist who wants to de-stress the world with feedback for the brain

As an orthopedic surgeon in Clinic ViaSana, Jur Vellema is mainly engaged in physical work. Not only during operations but also in the clinic, where he helps about fifty patients on an average day. As the chief medical officer at AlphaBeats, an Eindhoven based startup that helps people to de-stress with music, the emphasis is on the mental. And in the meantime, he is also working on a multidisciplinary practice that wants to connect the best of orthopedics, physiotherapy, and neurology. What drives Jur Vellema to this unusual combination of activities?

Jur Vellema during an operation

“For years I’ve been incredibly busy with the pure orthopedic part of my work, say, the carpentry, the chiseling, the surgery. But gradually I discovered that the solution for people was only partly dependent on that. Certainly with the shoulder, my specialty, the more neurological aspect needs to be added more often. How do you feel, how does your brain talk to your body – many abnormalities are nothing more than a disorder in the translation between what happens in your brain and what happens in your shoulder.”

The brain-shoulder connection

Vellema is talking about an adjustment in the brain-shoulder collaboration. “Some people completely lose the ability to move the arm above the shoulder. The brain just forgets it can do it. Our brain is very elastic, it constantly adapts, but sometimes that’s negative: you lose a bit of information about how to move.” At that point, surgery is no longer sufficient. In fact, there are more effective solutions – and less radical ones. Vellema: “Sometimes it’s enough to ask someone with a problem in his right shoulder to get in front of a mirror and lift the well functioning left arm. Because the brain thinks through the mirror that it is the defunct shoulder that moves, the blockage can suddenly be resolved. If the problem is in your brain, if, for example, someone literally carries the burden of the world on their shoulders, then you don’t even solve it with 100 operations.”

That’s how “that simple bone doctor” Vellema came on the trail to orientate herself in a wider sense. He first focused on the entrepreneurial side: in 2016, Vellema followed an MBA, with the goal of discovering how different disciplines could work better together. “I wanted to be able to do more than just repair bones and besides that, I wanted to see how we could connect the body and brain and reach out to other disciplines. Too often, everybody is just working in their own cubicles, as an orthopedist, a physiotherapist, or a neurologist, nobody who integrates that. I wanted to change that.”

“We want to help all employees in the Netherlands with their stress level.”

There was another motivation for Vellema to emphasize the mental element a bit more. “It’s not just our patients who need it, it’s the practitioners themselves as well. The pressure in health care is so high, it’s just unhealthy. And this is the case in many industries. So I not only wanted to heal the patient, I also wanted to help all employees in the Netherlands to cope with their stress levels.”

All those traces together, “plus my own brain that’s always in a state of action”, brought Vellema into contact with AlphaBeats. It turned out to be a golden opportunity. “For a variety of reasons, both for me personally and in the pursuit of my ambition. In my clinic, the whole day is scheduled from minute to minute for me. One patient after another, I can’t do anything in between. I missed the feeling of freedom, but also to be busy with various things at the same time. On top of that: I have a lot of joint complaints myself and then my job is a tough one. A day at AlphaBeats costs me about a third of the energy of a normal day, so that’s nice too.”

Read more about AlphaBeats here

The wish to be able to lead a more diverse existence has already come true, Vellema tells me a big smile. “The exciting, the unknown, every time you think you’ve done it, there are another 20 tasks to be done and all very diverse. My name may be Chief Medical Officer, but believe me, I think that’s less than 5% of what I actually do at AlphaBeats. Thank God I did that MBA!”

At AlphaBeats on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven

Then Vellema takes a more serious tone. “I do have a very high goal here. Some say it’s dangerous, but it’s necessary. With AlphaBeats, we want to offer the simplest and most accessible solution to bring our society back into line with nature. We all know it: we have to stop doing all those ridiculous things we do, the way we work, the things we think we should do, our pace is way too high and doesn’t fit the intended pace of nature at all. Just look at the lion: the strongest animal you can imagine but 90% of the time it doesn’t do anything at all and that way it’s very successful. And in the meantime, we think we should be ‘on’ 100% of the time. Our most important goal is to offer solutions that fit in with that. Where we motivate people to take a walk or do something with your children before you go back to work. And we think we can do that through AlphaBeats. For everyone.”

AlphaBeats has built a system that uses someone’s favorite music to relax the brain. Based on real-time monitoring of brain and heart activity, an algorithm makes it possible to adjust the music slightly, allowing the brain to go into “alpha mode” and relax.


AlphaBeats says your brain can be de-stressed in just 10 minutes. Isn’t there something contradictory in that: on the one hand emphasizing the importance of “not always being on” and at the same time offering a solution that resets the mind in just 10 minutes? Vellema: “Yes, in a way we also feel that as a split. That’s why we put it down as a start that is clear and achievable for everyone. We know that the effect will increase if you use our system more often. But you also have to make it as easy as possible for people. And that means that if you can achieve a significant improvement in just 10 minutes, then you have to start right there. A low starting threshold and also using your own favorite music, who wouldn’t want that? From there, we can move on, by transforming ingrained unconscious reactions to stressors. With 10 minutes a day in 4 weeks’ time, we can do that, that’s the heart of the matter.”

It goes without saying that Vellema took the test himself. “I’ve been using the system for about 3 weeks and I was scared of myself. You should know that normally, when I come home from work, I’m still 120% on. I sort of rake in my food into my mouth and see nothing of my surroundings. Well, I started using that app and I noticed to myself that all of a sudden I was kicking a ball with my kids. I was really shocked by that at first, but then it just became conscious as well and now it has become normal for me. With AlphaBeats, we want to offer a little push to help people over that threshold, but make no mistake: our system really works”.

Feedback for your brain

But how exactly? Vellema: “In what remains of our reptile brain, the stress factors are very deeply hidden. We make them visible. We give feedback to the brain. And the brain reacts to that. With stress, we can do it, but there might be more: with phobias and depression we should eventually be able to do it as well, but that’s still too complex now. We have always assumed that all kinds of autonomous processes cannot be influenced, but they can. As doctors, we have to stop offering a pill for every complaint. There is a deeper reason so often. The mere act of a placebo indicates how strong the mind really is.”

In fact, AlphaBeats says it provides a shortcut for all those people who find it difficult to recognize why they are stressed. It’s often the sum of work, private life, the dog that’s annoying, the traffic jam to work and whatnot. They are unconsciously ingrained patterns that bother someone. AlphaBeats – just like the mirror in that patient with the defunct right shoulder – is an instrument to break into these patterns, without the immediate need to know the exact cause. The latter is for phase 2, when the most palpable stress has disappeared and there is room for a real change of habits.

“Switching off is something you have to impose on yourself.”

But what about the development of the startup itself? If one category of companies is always ‘on’, it must be startups. Always looking for improvements, extra team members, new markets, and investors. Can that be the lifestyle that AlphaBeats propagates?

“Yes, that could be a trap for us”, Vellema admits immediately. “I do a lot of things at the same time and so do my colleagues. But there’s also a protective effect by talking about it with each other. We’re also sometimes unavailable for half a day, just to switch off for a while. My weekly schedule does make it necessary for me to work on the weekends as well. Yet I also set myself hard limits, also from the realization that if I don’t, we never get where we want to end up. Switching off is something you have to impose on yourself.”

Read the original article here

“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. ”

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