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Friday, December 4, 2020
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

Your brain is a Bieber fan (even if you’re not) and it’s good for you

An Australian National University (ANU) researcher has found while she might not be a Belieber (a fan of Justin Bieber), her brain is – and yours could be, too!

PhD researcher Jessica Sharmin Rahman, from ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, has merged Artificial Intelligence (AI) and listening to music, to find the psychological impacts on the human body – and it all started with a Bieber classic.

“I’m not a Bieber fan – but it turns out my brain is,” she said.

“When I heard his 2015 song, Love Yourself, I’m a bit embarrassed to say, I didn’t hate it – in fact, it gave me chills. 

“Then I realised this type of reaction is actually surprisingly common. So I decided to deep dive into examining the impact music has on our brain – with the help of artificial intelligence.” 

Ms Sharmin Rahman now asks people to listen to music while recording their physiological signals, such as their sweat glands, heart rate and brain waves.

She has conducted experiments on over 80 participants, using pop, classical and instrumental songs, finding similar reactions.

“That’s the interesting part of my research because even if people say they don’t like a genre or artist, like Justin Bieber, their body signals still respond positively to it,” she said.

“[The results] sometimes differ but generally I could see a pattern. Of course, the more data we collect the more the AI model will become stronger and stronger.”

Using the data, she has now built an AI system that learns a person’s responses based on their listening habits.

“The system then predicts the emotions they are feeling, almost better than they can,” she said.  

“Ninety-six per cent of the time my system knows what genre of music they’re listening to and how it makes them feel.” 

Ms Sharmin Rahman was ANU’s Three Minute Thesis People’s Choice winner in 2020.

She said her research could work to collaborate with the latest technology and improve mental health across the board.

“The chills and tingles we get while listening to music have an effect on our neurological activity,” she said. 

“Devices such as smartwatches could learn your responses and suggest music to improve your emotional wellbeing – and songs to avoid. Imagine listening to Spotify for your health!” 

A video presentation about her work can be found online.

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