My experience of Brain.fm

I’ve been using Brain.fm for a few weeks now, with a paid membership.  

I am using it right now. I have it on one of the ‘focus’ playlists. 

Brain.fm is an app (web and mobile) that plays music that is intended to help elicit certain psychological states: focused (for work), relaxed, meditative and sleep. 

There is a science behind how the Brain.fm team compose their music. I’d like to pretend that I understand it, but that would be a little cheeky of me. I do understand however that it is based on the idea that in certain psychological states (e.g. focused attention), the activity of large clusters of neurons become coordinated, and it is possible to elicit this type of coordination with auditory stimuli. 

There is also something called salience, whereby they create music that doesn’t disrupt your attention (like it would be if I was listening to my favourite music) but sits gently in the background. It is pleasant without being engaging, if that makes sense.  

To date, they haven’t published much on the evidence that their music works, but there is some work on their science page, relating to studies they’ve done on sleep and sustained attention. 

I think it is probably safe to say at this stage that there is clear logic behind their approach and a commitment to ongoing examination, but further work to be done to quantify the effects (if any) on improved productivity, relaxation and sleep. Strikes me that it might be a good little trial to run here at Flinders with students! (Gareth puts in his to-do list). 

To date, I’ve really only used the ‘focus’ playlists. I put on headphones, fire them up and do my work. I sometimes combine Brain.fm’s music with nature sounds from My Noise to get a really expansive soundscape going. 

I find I can put these on and listen to them for hours. So, from a usability perspective it is a definite thumbs up. I am far more likely to fire up Brain.fm now than I am to fire up some tunes on Google Music. I find that regular music is far more distracting, especially music that has vocals.   

But am I more productive?

I would say yes, but I am not sure I have the metrics to back it up. I do know that once I have fired up Brain.fm I can easily listen to it all day whilst I do my work. I also notice that I lose time more often, suggesting I am getting into ‘flow’ on a more regular basis. 

Where I have really noticed the difference is reading on the bus. I use my phone to read ebooks during my bus trip to work. The mobile Brain.fm app has specific playlists for reading and I tried one of them a couple of weeks back. The difference was really noticeable. 

The whole sense of being on a bus kinda disappeared and it was just me, my book, and a pleasant unobtrusive soundscape in the background. I ploughed through a couple of books in quick succession over a few days. 

I also dabbled the other day with some new guided meditations they’ve added to the mobile app. There was a 15 minute meditation that I really liked. It was a combination of breath-focused mindfulness and what I’d call an affirmation based meditation. I found it relaxing but also positive mood inducing. The guide said nice things about who I was and I believed her 🙂

I’ve yet to try to sleep ones, mostly because I don’t usually have much trouble with sleep. My brain gets enough of a thrashing throughout the day that it is usually happy to submit and pass out at the end of the day. 

I have wondered whether they might ever do some playlists related to exercise. I use my normal music when I exercise, but have noticed different performance depending on what I listen to. There might be a space for the Brain.fm team to create some performance-enhancing tunes as part of the repertoire (hint hint peeps). 

So would I recommend it?

Yes is the simple answer. 

There are lots of experiments that one can try in relation to increasing productivity or learning how to unwind. Brain.fm, in my experience, is an experiment worth trying. A year’s subscription is $50USD, which isn’t nothing, but it’s barely a couple of takeaway meals and those only give you a few moments of joy before 48 hours of indigestion. Brain.fm won’t give you the indigestion. 

As with any of these things, it wise to do a little bit of research before making your choice. Hit up Google with the search term ‘brain fm review’ and see what other people are saying. You’ll find a good number of people talking about it. 

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