Monday, July 7, 2014

Can This “Neuroscience Based” Music App Really Boost Your Brain Power By 400%?

Wired - Today, the brain sells. Take an old idea, put “neuro” in front of it and you have an apparently exciting new product. In a world that already offers a Neurobliss drink , No-Lie-MRI brain scanning, and Neuroleadership courses, it’s not really surprising that the Focus@will app has appeared, claiming it can boost your attention span by up to 400% using “neuroscience based music”.

Before I tell you why I’m skeptical, here’s how the company claims its instrumental music will help you “study more efficiently and work smarter”. The app’s premise is that it usually takes us time to focus because of the distracting effect of the environment. Their music has apparently been carefully engineered to reduce this distracting effect. The tunes go through “phase sequences” to ensure that they are neither too relaxing, nor too distracting. There’s a handy graph that shows how the music keeps you in this sweet spot between focus and daydreaming. “It works in the background,” they explain, “by subtly soothing the part of your brain, the limbic system, that is always on the lookout for danger, food, sex or shiny things.”

Here’s why I’m sceptical:
  • The claims that Focus@will makes on its website are very specific. We’re told that attention span is boosted by up to 400% and that “trials show typical 12-15% positive increase in focus biomarker.” However, if you go to the “science” page of their website, there are no references to any trials. If you click on the “literature” tab, you’ll find a wide assortment of scientific references, some decades old, others more recent. Crucially, not one of them is a trial for the benefits of the Focus@will app.   Read More