Premier music institution joins forces with neurotech innovator to understand how musicians can use brain stimulation to enhance skill and creativity.
This summer, Berklee College of Music launched a collaboration with Halo Neuroscience, creators of Halo Sport—the first ever consumer brain stimulator that accelerates muscle memory development. Together, Berklee and Halo are exploring how brain stimulation helps musicians optimize their practice and develop musical technique and creativity faster.
The collaboration between Berklee and Halo Neuroscience stems from a number of recently published neuroscience papers looking at the mechanism in the brain that allows musicians to master the motor skills they need to play the right notes at the right time. These double-blind, placebo-controlled studies (referenced below) show that brain stimulation has the potential to accelerate a musician’s ability to learn musical technique and even foster creativity. Berklee and Halo’s goal is to evaluate the power of brain stimulation in a real-world setting, and bring this technology to musicians everywhere.
“We’re excited to have this opportunity to advance our understanding of how musical skills develop in the brain,” said Panos A. Panay, Senior Vice President for Global Strategy and Innovation at Berklee. “The potential to accelerate music learning and unleash creativity through transcranial electric stimulation, combined with Halo’s beyond-cutting edge technology, is one of the most exciting things we can bring to the next generation of music makers. Our goal is to explore how brain stimulation can help musicians in ways that were once just a distant pipe dream.”
The new collaboration kicked off with a summer fellowship, during which two Berklee students, plus guest participants from Stanford University and Yale University, wrote, practiced, and played music measuring brain activity and using neurostimulation technology to enhance their productivity and streamline their learning.
Alyse Brown, a summer fellow who graduated from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee with a bachelor’s degree in music and a minor in psychology, used Halo Sport to learn guitar for the first time. “With Halo Sport, I was able to face my fears and learn guitar in just eight weeks. I even performed a duet with a friend in front of 50 people at the end of the summer! I’ve gained so much confidence since I started practicing with Halo Sport, and I hope other musicians at Berklee will have the opportunity to benefit from it as well. This could be just the thing that takes musicians to the next level.”
Another student, Lily Dowling, a singer-songwriter currently going into her third year at Berklee College, used a different type of stimulation to improve her songwriting efficiency. “I never thought I would be incorporating brain stimulation into my songwriting process, let alone see such a big difference. With Halo’s technology, I was able to quadruple the number of songs I could write per week!”
Dr. Brett Wingeier, Halo co-founder and Co-CEO, comments: “We’re thrilled to work with Berklee to improve musicians’ motor skills and accelerate their musical training. The next step will be exploring ways transcranial electric stimulation can affect attention and focus. Recent literature suggests that specific patterns of stimulation applied to cognitive areas of the brain could potentially help unlock more creativity for solos and songwriting.”
Following this summer’s fellowship, the two institutions will look to continue learning how different types of brain stimulation including transcranial direct current stimulation, transcranial alternating current stimulation, and transcranial random noise stimulation can help musicians increase technical ability, creativity, and focus.
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- Lotze et al. 2003, University of Tübingen: found professional violinists had less overall brain activity than amateur violinists, plus more focused activity in the following motor areas: motor cortex, primary auditory cortex, supplementary motor area (SMA), and premotor area (PMA)
- Limb et al. 2003, National Institute of Health: found deactivation in prefrontal cortex and increased sensorimotor activity during improvisation
- Waters-Metenier et al. (2014 and 2017), University College London: found that stimulation produces 17-40% faster learning for piano chord configuration tasks
- Lin et al. 2016, Halo Neuroscience: found 75% faster results in stim group compared to placebo group at producing piano chords with varying levels of force
- Lucchiari et al. 2018, University of Milan: review of 18 research papers on tDCS for enhancing creativity
About Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music is one of the most prestigious institutes of contemporary music and the performing arts, with 283 Grammy winners, 89 Latin Grammy winners, five Oscar winners and 19 Emmy winners among its students, faculty, and alumni.