Episode 64: Using A.I. Music to Enhance Cognitive States ft. Daniel Clark

Focus, relaxation, sleep...what if we can scientifically use music to achieve these mental states in 15 minutes?

This is the ambition of Brain.fm, a service that uses A.I. music to get your brain in a cognitive state that you want at any given time. Different from binaural beats, Brain.fm's music utilizes the technology of neural phase-locking, which keeps your brain waves synchronized for long periods of time.

We discuss the technology and potential of enhancing performance through the auditory system with Brain.fm CEO Daniel Clark.

In this discussion, you'll discover...

  • How music with certain frequencies can potentially enhance brain states - neural phase locking
  • The research trials and scientific data that support Brain.fm's technology
  • The differing philosophies and goals of the music coming from the mainstream music industry vs. Brain.fm

iTunes - Youtube - Spotify

Do you want to try Brain.fm?

Many employees of HVMN regularly tune in during work, and there's a free trial waiting for everyone.

Visit https://www.brain.fm/hvmn for more info!


Geoff: Hey. This is Geoffrey Woo from the HVMN Enhancement podcast, and let's dive right into this week's conversation. I'm with Dan Clark, CEO of Brain.fm.

We met a couple months back, and I've been a big fan of the product since probably two, three years ago, getting into the space of how different interventions can improve our cognitive performance, but especially audio, music, and remember playing around with things like binaural beats, which is not what Brain.fm is, but things like binaural beats, Brain.fm, and other things out there, and I think recently we just reconnected and talked about some of the science and interesting work they're doing in that space. So, excited to have you on the program.

Daniel: Yeah, happy to be here. Very excited to be able to share what we're doing with the community that you have, and also dispel some of the rumors of binaural beats and how we're differentiating ourself from them.

Geoff: Right. So let's start from the top.

Daniel: Sure.

Geoff: Brain.fm: music that can stimulate different cognitive states.

Daniel: Yep.

Geoff: People typically might associate that with things like binaural beats. Can you disambiguate this space?

Daniel: Yeah, sure. There's a lot of popsci that's left over of times before, and binaural beats is one of them. So binaural beats is basically this thing that looked through data to help stimulate brain activity and help people perform. But the person that brought this to attention later came back and was like, "Well, maybe there's not as much scientific proof." And that happened a lot in science, right? What happens with binaural beats, specifically, is your brain does actually start going and gets to a higher mental state, but it only lasts maybe for two minutes before there's a significant drop-off.

What we're doing is something called neural phase locking, and it's a little bit different, where what happens is we are using the AI in our AI composer to re-engineer music that normally you would listen to to create those mental states we talked about. 

Geoff: How do you identify these mental states? Are these alpha, beta waves? Are these-

Daniel: Yeah, sure.

Geoff: ... just subjective states?

Daniel: There's a lot of different states that we've been able to identify through EEG studies. We have a whole science team that is really back behind the scenes to do that. But basically what we do is we have these different protocols. What happens is you have brain waves, and you have many different brain waves, like you were saying: beta, alpha, all that. And then you also have these different modules of your brain. For more science, we're going to have to go to the science section, but really, in a basic setting, what happens is in those sound waves that we're doing, the AI reorganizes the music to move really, really fast in frequency, and that is the effect of what builds you into this protocol, which can enhance your brain waves, or your brain state.

So, for example, we know for focus we have to, in a very simplified explanation, your brain has to move faster, let's say.

Geoff: Okay.

Daniel: So what happens is the whole music is designed to get your brain to move faster. And the way the music is designed, as well as with 3D sound and with different kinds of modulations, it's made so your brain can't normalize to it, and that is the secret.

So we have this patented AI, which I keep talking about, and it keeps changing the music small enough where it captures the attention of your brain, and it gets you in the zone by basically distracting your brain so it doesn't get distracted with the outside distractions of the world.

Geoff: Okay. But it also alters. It's not repetitive and you get bored of, like-

Daniel: Correct.

Geoff: ... a pop song.

Daniel: It's so minimal-

Geoff: Okay.

Daniel: ... that you can't. The whole music is built to be in the background.

Geoff: Okay.

Daniel: It's interesting. If you go through an evolutionary reasoning on why it works, is our brains, way back hundreds of thousands of years ago, were designed for distractions. But distractions back then weren't distractions. They were danger.

Geoff: Existential threats, yeah.

Daniel: Exactly, exactly. So what happens is now, in today's society when you get a notification on your phone, your primal brain kicks in and goes, "Oh, this isn't danger." But it's kind of built that way.

Geoff: Right.

Daniel: So what we do is we ... the whole system is designed to be in the background and to block out those. A way to kind of identify this-

Geoff: Or take it over in a productive way?

Daniel: Correct, correct. Exactly. It does do that. So not only is it blocking out distractions, but it's also enhancing your brain activity as well.

Geoff: Yeah, so I think, subjectively, we've all, I think, personally have experienced the notion that sometimes listening to a really good track of music puts us into a focus state or a flow state, so how's that disambiguate with what you're doing with your AI composer. Obviously, just a random pop song that's catchy, it might be just overly distraction.

Daniel: Yeah, of course.

Geoff: If it's, like, a movie soundtrack, you're not, I guess, with the phase locking technology that you're talking about ...

Daniel: So that's part of it. There's also salience events and things like that, and salience is those sounds that can be distracting. So what happens is when you have different kinds of events or different kinds of sound, your brain is processing them, always. Even if you're not listening to music with words, your brain is still there deconstructing what those words mean.

Geoff: Right.

Daniel: So, the way I kind of explain this is when you're sleeping, if I say, "Geoff," you're going to wake up. It's 'cause the brain's listening. Normal people, or a lot of people, they sleep better in thunderstorms. Reason for that is because, evolutionary, there's less predators that hunt at night. 

It's the same kind of the idea behind that which leads to this enhancement with the neural phase locking, which gets your brain to work harder or to be more aligned, I guess is a better word, and then the ability to have different kinds of events and different kinds of music qualities to be filtered out and have a better experience, so whole time using its premium.

Geoff: Okay. So, neural phase locking, I guess, what does that precisely mean? Your locking two brainwaves that you're trying to modulate towards and mimic, helping your brain stay in that state?

Daniel: Yeah, exactly. What happens is if you want to think about it, I would probably say that it's something where if we know you're here and we want to get you up here. And I'm using, for everyone that can't see me, is I'm using hands. But basically the neural phase locking is responsible for gently lifting and pushing you up to that level and then keeping you there. 

It's kind of like noise canceling headphones where they play the inverse. So we play these sounds that will bring you up and then another level of the sounds and levels of the frequency bring you higher and they push and push and push until you're there and then as long as you use the music, it gently pushes you and keeps you there. But when you take the music out, then you start fading back down.

Geoff: Okay, and then the direction is a subjective focus state, or is it like a alpha wave or beta wave ...? Like, in terms of measured EEGs, when you say "getting you there"-

Daniel: Yeah of course.

Geoff: ... like, there's a bunch of things that then triggers. Is that subjective feeling, alpha, beta waves, both?

Daniel: I would say it's definitely both. So when you have ... we call it the aha moment, is we know what people need to be on an EEG and with those alpha and beta waves and a combination of that, but also the feeling you get. So you actually do get a feeling of, like, drinking coffee and getting a slight buzz. And it's that feeling, when you take your headphones out and you notice the absence, that is the feeling of the focus and the concentration and the direction that we're trying to achieve.

Geoff: Cool. So, walking back through the genesis of how this technology was invented, I know you have a partner who, I believe, when we first chatted, was sort of a self-taught, like, composer, AI researcher. Walk me through that genesis there.

Daniel: Of course.

Geoff: And then also just curious to hear how you also got involved with the project as well.

Daniel: Yeah, of course. It's a very interesting story. Adam, he's the founder of the company, he's been doing this for 16 years. When he was eight years old, he wrote his first symphony. 

So, we have PhD on staff, we consult with a lot of people, and he's just incredibly smart. Instead of going on about him ... But he basically was always interested in music and was really interested in the brain and how it works. What he did was he actually started in different kind of communities. He pioneered some of the different videos games that you can control with your brain, way back when it was just first started.

Geoff: So using EEG to move.

Daniel: Correct.

Geoff: So kind of that early, early brain computer interface.

Daniel: Exactly, exactly.

Geoff: Okay, cool.

Daniel: And then he started making this program where he figured that through music ... Because everyone knows, just like you were mentioning before, you can use music to change your mental state. If you want to be happy or you want to go to the gym, you're going to get more out of it. 

So he had a theory, basically, that we could use the neural phase locking, which is in other circles named as entrainment, basically to influence that. And he used EEGs and eventually created this program which it was CDs you'd have to listen to every single day and it was for six months before you started getting the effects that we're talking about right now. He's later concentrated that to three months and started creating a licensing program, and he worked with different universities and people that wanted to research and keep brainwave concentration in a way to be able to focus on and build products from there. 

He built this licensing program and refined it further from three months to one month, and he started going into that where we started eventually having people that came in and used this product that was for research, started creating companies around it. Again, you'd have to use it for a month. So he stepped back and was like, "Well, listen, if there's a need for consumer product, I'm going to make the best one," and refined it further and further and further until eventually it was a week, eventually it was eight hours, eventually it was two hours, and now we're at 15 minutes. And that's when Brain.fm was really born when he got it down to 15 minutes. 'Cause the whole premise of give us 15 minutes, give it a try, that's a lot more obtainable then giving us six months, basically.

Geoff: So basically the end point of how making the claim of six months or three months is that in 15 minutes of listening to Brain.fm, you see shifts in brainwaves through an EEG.

Daniel: Correct. Exactly.

Geoff: And there are different from just like listening to control music.

Daniel: Correct. Exactly. So we actually do have, and in a second I'll get into how I got involved in the company, but to further explain into that, so we actually had a research grant from National Science Foundation.

Geoff: NSF. Great.

Daniel: Yep, exactly. And there, basically the whole premise is to help us study the effects of our music that we can prove to be on par or beat ADHD medication, and it's through those sources. We do have preliminary data which you can see on our science page, and then we have this humongous study through this NSF grant, and some of the broad data that we're getting, we see that some people, they start reacting to the music in two minutes, some five minutes, some ten minutes.

Geoff: You're comparing this to Reolin, or-

Daniel: Yeah, I mean-

Geoff: ... amphetamines, or ...

Daniel: ... I can't say that from Brain.fm's side, but we could say ADHD.

Geoff: Okay. If it's like a public clinical trial, then what is the control intervention?

Daniel: Sure. The control right now is music. So it's silence, it's Brain.fm, and it's un-entrained music from Brain.fm as well. We do a Spotify focus list and things like that.

Geoff: Okay.

Daniel: So that's the first level. The second level of this is the comparison of those.

Geoff: With actual therapeutics.

Daniel: Yeah, of course.

Geoff: Are you guys in phase ... or part one?

Daniel: We're in phase one right now.

Geoff: Okay. Cool.

Daniel: And then the goal is to basically go into phase two. With that we go through FDA approval, with that we go into ...

Geoff: That's interesting. Almost getting into digital therapeutics. You start seeing companies with digital coaches for diabetes or obesity, and I think you start seeing this with cognition as well. It's interesting.

Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, we have the data to show that we have evidence mounting to provide our claim, basically that we can do this, and the whole idea is that we can be a step before prescribing. So one of the goals is to have an ARCS classification, eventually, so you can go and get it medically prescribed by a doctor.

Geoff: Hopefully get reimbursement insurance.

Daniel: Exactly.

Geoff: And that'll be cool.

Daniel: That is one of the goals. But we are building consumer product now. Really what we want to do is have a preliminary step before you take drugs, and if we can do that and help people and have them control it, then that's a win. So that's really kind of the whole main stage. We went on a little tangent there, but it does make me excited that-

Geoff: No, no, I appreciate going into the science. Music is cool, music obviously can help generally get people in a happy mood, low moods. Are they just making really cool music that's kind of on par with the existing music, or is there a statistically significant difference between Brain.fm, AI generated neural phase locking music and, like, a Justin Bieber song? It sounds like there's data that suggests, and it's mounting, that your technology's generally actually statistically different music-

Daniel: Correct.

Geoff: ... than pop music that Dr. Dre is producing in his basement.

Daniel: And that's exactly it. And then, it's interesting. So we have this evidence, we have the data as well, but it's really experiential.

Getting back to how I got involved in the company was I was working in advertising for this. I've always been in tech. I made websites since I've been 13, used to build and do advertising with tech and things like that, and at one point I said, "You know what? I don't feel like I'm actually contributing to humanity right now," and I had this kind of realization that there's something more than this. And I'm actually looking at new jobs, looking at new opportunities, and I got one of Brain.fm's first emails.

To be completely honest, well, one, I've always been interested in Human 2.0 and brain hacking and optimization, but I thought it was, like, not true. I thought it was, "Hey, you want-

Geoff: Or too good to be true.

Daniel: Exactly.

Geoff: I think we're all skeptics by nature.

Daniel: Oh, totally. I mean, we have a very specific claim, basically, and I was like, "Hey, this is email, let's try it out." Three free sessions, which we still do, and in the first 15 minutes I was like, "This is pretty cool. This sounds pretty cool." Four hours later when I was still working and realized that four hours went by and I got all this work done-

Geoff: And you're just, like, listening to this Brain.fm stuff four hours in.

Daniel: Exactly. You know, you don't have to listen to four hours, you can listen from 15 minutes to however long you want, but it blew me away and I bought a subscription. Started using it for a month and I go, "This is a company I want to be part of. Are they hiring? No. Okay. I'm going to call." And I called actually 12 times and I said, "Listen-

Geoff: Like, here's a phone number.

Daniel: Yeah, I contacted customer support, got a number, got one of the founders and said, "Hey." Well, I got Adam on the phone. I was like, "Hey, I want to be involved." They were like, "No, we're good, we're good." I was like, "I'll work for free. I believe in this, I know this is going to change the world." Worked for free a little bit, ended up proving I knew what I was doing and was the lead engineer for a while. And then the ex CEO moved on and Adam, based on some experience I had before, as well as tech, thought I was best positioned, so here I am. 

Geoff: That's a crazy story. It's actually 12, just, like, cold calls.

Daniel: Yeah, I believe in it.

Geoff: That's some crazy persistence.

Daniel: Exactly.

Geoff: I mean, you had to have some kind of crazy conviction to be, like, "I will work for free."

Daniel: Yeah. So I've done start-ups, I've done this kind of like before, and if the first company that I've been part of where I actually genuinely feel that we can-

Geoff: There's a real product. There's a real technology differentiator.

Daniel: Yeah. We can enhance humanity. There's some things that we're working on, there's some preliminary data that we have, which we can go through, but it's really exciting. So just on the focus side, we talked about how we want it go into ARCS classification, and really we have two sets of people that we want to help. We can help the people that have ADHD or have some kind of thing that limits them from being the person that can, I guess ... What's the best word? Compete, maybe, in the workplace, or something like that. And then, additionally, we can be a tool for people to get above that, and that's the human optimization we're talking about. And sleep is a whole 'nother product that we have. And sleep, the claim is the same as that, that we can help people fall asleep in 15 minutes.

So when we look at that and we look at really what we're trying to do, it kind of sets out to the path, how can we help humanity, how can we basically unlock what's already inside of them, just like what HVMN is doing, but we go about it in a different route than you guys do.

Geoff: No, I think that's why it's a fun conversation 'cause I think we see a lot of the same opportunities with how we build technologies, products, to help people be better versions of themselves, and I think it's very [inaudible 00:19:38]. There's things that one can consume, like some of the other supplements or consumables, there's things you can consume through your auditory system, things that you can consume through visual. 

Not only, I think, do they work in very separate pathways, maybe they synergize. I think that could be down the line something interesting to look at. Can these things start stacking beyond each other?

Daniel: For sure.

Geoff: But I think, just subjectively, just given [inaudible 00:20:01] experiment and just some of the folks in our company that have been using Brain.fm, it is kind of a, what I would say, is obviously without having any numerical measures, definitely better music than an average pop track or a Spotify focus list. I mean, I think there's something, too, what you're saying where, like, hey, there's something interesting with the music that you guys are producing that's different from something that's supposed to get me to share it or virally share it to people in three minutes. There's different goals to what pop composers are doing than what you guys are doing.

Daniel: Totally. If we actually just look at what music and why music is created. Music is created so you focus on the music. That's why they have changing tempos and changing beats and vocals and they want you to sing it, they want you to be catchy and they want you to buy the album and go to the concert. That's not our goal. Our goal is literally to have us go on your phone or on the website and not use us when you start playing. So you don't reengage back with the app, just focus on what you got to do. 

So it's a completely set of different goals, it's a completely set of outcomes, and that's why our music is different.

Geoff: Yeah, which makes sense from just an objective function. Like, the music industry is ... I think you put it quite nicely. So I think even from that score insight, there's something interesting you guys are working on just from a root cause perspective. Yeah, I'm curious. You were talking about, you know, what are the future directions? You have focus, track. I haven't used the sleep track, ever. Actually I need to get on it. I'm curious. I've been using the Oura ring a lot.

Daniel: I saw that.

Geoff: It's been fun tracking my HRV and sleep depth, so it could be interesting as an intervention, testing out different interventions that affect sleep. What else is in the pipeline, or what are you excited about working on?

Daniel: Sure.

Geoff: What can you share?

Daniel: Everything's exciting. To pinpoint a few things, sleep is really exciting, so we're actually remastering a lot of our music to specifically work with speakers, and one of those is sleep. So what happens is, because of the modulations of those frequencies, if you are not using headphones for at least the focus product, the frequencies can bounce off of different things in the room, it can have different depth, and it doesn't work the same. 

Sleep has always been the same for us as well, but it's actually slow wave sound, so when things bounce off in a room and they come to your ears, if it has a high fidelity speaker, your brain can actually discern the difference, so basically your brain wants to stay in that state. So what happens is we're remastering a lot of our sound for sleep to be able to have speakers in a room. And I'm super excited about it 'cause it's very hard for me to sleep with headphones.

Geoff: Yeah, maybe that's a reason why I never bother with it, 'cause, like-

Daniel: It's true. Some people it works. I'm traveling a lot, and I use it on planes all the time because you literally can't lay down. I lay on my side, that's why headphones are hard for me, but I'm really excited about that. Additionally, we have some cool stuff. In the same premise as focus, we're getting you into the zone of your flow state, we're working on workout music, okay? So, it's still at least three, four months away, but we just started playing with it internally. And, as I say, I'm very excited because it's kind of like taking a shot of coffee where focus gradually gets you there, this is like, boom, and you get there. And I've worked out with it. Excuse me, when I say get there, I mean in the zone. Just we're on the same page, right? And, you know if you're running, you get that runner's high, if you're at the gym you get that pump? 

Geoff: Yeah.

Daniel: You don't always get it every time.

Geoff: Right.

Daniel: The premise is what if we could produce that every single time within 15 minutes? And just the first QA version of this has very promising results because-

Geoff: I got to check it out. I mean, would you compare it to, like, a pre-workout caffeine-

Daniel: Yeah.

Geoff: ... shake?

Daniel: We are actually looking at two. So we're looking at workout into two segments. One is the pre-workout, so you would actually listen to music to get you in the mental zone of going. So kind of like how Michael Phelps listens to a playlist before he jumps in the pool, this could be used for that. And then other music would be to help you sustain there and be able to control basically the blood flow around your body, your brain, and all that.

Geoff: No, it stands to reason. I think most athletes are trying to get into some zone. You see people in the locker room with their headsets on probably listening to some aggressive R&B, like, hip hop or something, right? I don't know.

Daniel: Some Eminem, right?

Geoff: Right. So something aggressive that gets you pumped. I think another interesting study would be, like, how do you benchmark against, like, standard ...? I guess it is a gold standard. It's probably, like, get some aggressive testosterone music going, right?

Daniel: It's interesting. So we did do a quick pilot study last Olympics, so not this one going on, but we gave it to them with the wrestling team and we had the youngest male competitor win gold. And we had more than that, but that's something that is pretty impressive, especially because it's the first time it's ever been done. But we had a lot of other people win gold as well and it was really interest 'cause they use our sleep in combination with our focus product between sets and things like that in the same level, so they almost stacked them against with each other and it helped them focus, do better in the matches, but then also recover faster at night.

Geoff: Cool. I think there's some interesting signal if you're getting adoption with some of the elite of the elite, and I think to get that RCT status, like, yeah, if we have it against control music ... But it sounds like you guys are working on all of that.

Daniel: We're working on it. As you know, it's expensive, and we have to make sure that some of these tests that we're doing ... They haven't actually really been done before, so we have to design tests and make sure that they work and go through that, so ... 

Geoff: Absolutely. It's easy to be, like, "Oh, do more research," but I think it is true. I think, for us, that's something we think about a lot. How do we benchmark against goal center of control, and I think for music it's actually kind of hard. What is even-

Daniel: It's interesting.

Geoff: ... placebo music? 

Daniel: Yeah.

Geoff: Right? Like a placebo-

Daniel: Exactly.

Geoff: ... pill, a placebo drink, it could be like a bitter drink to match against our Ketone Ester, or like a placebo pill with this cellulose for an atrophic stack. How do you think about placebo music?

Daniel: Sure. I think placebo music is kind of hard because even in the studies that we have already on our website, you can compare silence comparatively to Spotify music, and actually Spotify music is less helpful in, like, start tasks and things like that, 'cause it's distracting. But if you have silence, you can get there faster. And when we control or we compare against Brain.fm, and there is a measurable improvement, right?

Geoff: Right.

Daniel: So I think if we get back to the placebo music, I think it's actually subjective based on the person. Some people like EDM music. I'm one of them. And some people really like country. Why?

Geoff: Or, like, orchestral.

Daniel: Orchestral, piano, yeah, subjective. So it's kind of challenging to be able to isolate that as well, and that's one of the reasons why we do have piano music and classical and ambient and...

Geoff: Yeah, one thing I thought was interesting, essentially you are separating out the medium or the instrumentation to the neural phase locking work that you're working on. How does that work? Interesting thing about, you know, there's two things going on. One's like the delivery mechanism of some audio signals that are going to your brain.

Daniel: Sure.

Geoff: Does instrumentation affect how that delivery happens?

Daniel: It does, yeah. So take this with a grain of salt because I am not the lead composer. Shout out to Chris. But there's a lot of different things that go into it. If we have a protocol that we're trying to neuro phase lock, if we do it through electronic music, because it's more poppy and maybe it moves faster, we have to use a different protocol to make sure that that works to get the effect that we desire in comparison to piano. 

So we have piano and electronic music. Piano music is a little bit more lower. It's not as fast, basically. So we have to change the protocols to be able to work with that. That's the real big thing on training our AI and being able to create and understand what we're trying to control, what music is going in and really, how does the music have to change to be able to get the desired effect? 

Our whole process is actually kind of complicated where the composers and the AI work together. It's not a composer that makes a track and then gives it to the AI to re-sequence. It's actually an iterative process. So they do it in one second or two second-

Geoff: Chunks?

Daniel: ... chunks, basically.

Geoff: Really?

Daniel: Yeah, almost like in array, if you're a programmer. And then they feed that to the AI and it basically composes it and matches songs and different frequencies together and actually produces these beautiful tracks which sound like someone created. And then sometimes through that-

Geoff: How many iterations, typically?

Daniel: There's a lot. It depends. That's the advancement. So with the protocol and with the refinement of the neural phase locking, we're able to produce something or produce someone to zone in in 15 minutes, and we have that pretty down pat, 'cause that's our gold standard for what we're trying to achieve. But for us to get there, even just a year ago, it took us four months to make five tracks, kind of thing.

Geoff: And that's just like the composer and the AI just iterating-

Daniel: Working together.

Geoff: ... and you listening to it, it's like, "Ah, it's not-

Daniel: Correct.

Geoff: You don't like-

Daniel: The composer changing it, highlighting, saying, "Hey, this is not right." That was a year ago and in the last two months we just QA'd 85 tracks, kind of thing. So not only-

Geoff: Is that QA-ing you and your team?

Daniel: Yeah.

Geoff: You see users, like, "Hmm, this ..."

Daniel: So, firstly we do internal QA, so we have our musicians that basically do the first round, because they're the composers, the musicians, and we have different people. They have one ... you know, they each work for video games and different kinds of things. And then it goes through our internal teaming of the QA and then we do a closed beta list, basically, of people that have been power users since maybe even before Brain.fm was there or have been there since the beginning and they want more. We basically get feedback, we combo it and based on musical quality what they like, how they perceive and what activity they're doing, and then we tag the music and classify it on what activity. 

So, hey, some music is more relaxed. We build it that way on purpose so it's better for reading a book. Some is really high energy and it's better for coding, or whatever, and we tag it that too. We're actually redeveloping our app to basically be able to have users pick that.

Geoff: Cool.

Daniel: It's fun, yeah.

Geoff: It's such a cool premise. I think it's cool that you guys are taking not just AI robotic approach, but really just interesting combination of art, art history, of actually having composers and having it sort of informed by your software to devolve the type of neuro phase locking that you're describing, which is an interesting combination of art and technology.

Daniel: And then, in the future, we're looking to expand that even more, so how do we complete the loop between the specific person using it? Right now we have an algorithm based on how many times you skip a track or how you rate it, but the thing you're wearing on your finger and as well as other trackers on people's wrists, that's something down the road, but we're looking to help integrate into that as well.

Geoff: Closing the loop.

Daniel: Exactly. And that, I think, is really the gold standard. So now you can rate the app, you can tell it, but now we also know the inside of your body and how it's reacting, and that's something that we're striving to as well.

Geoff: It makes sense. I think we all, and I agree with you in the sense that we can kind of nudge ourselves, "I want to be more focused," or, "I want to be more ..." I think we kind of modulate our thinking already, and often it's just substantiated by the environment or it is molded by the environment.

Daniel: Correct.

Geoff: And you're saying, "Hey, we can have music that's actually designed for certain types of environment."

Daniel: Exactly. Now, we can make music on the counterclaim that we can make music really annoying, right?

Geoff: Yeah.

Daniel: But anyone can. Gunshots, trains firing, or train tracks ... You know, I live in New York subways. There is a lot of stuff. And what happens is because your brain wants to get into a place anyway, as far as getting in the zone to help you get your goal faster, it helps, but if we tried to negatively make music, it wouldn't do anything. It would just be annoying, kind of thing. So there's not really maybe an Orson Welles thing to be scared of.

Geoff: Right. I'll give you annoying, or it's, can you make people more aggressive? Or I guess it's kind of associated with a pre-workout, 'cause you kind of want elevate testosterone and aggression, like when you get that pump and lift heavy weights.

Daniel: I think it's really ... Well, first off is it's subjective. I think it's hard to quantify that 'cause we're not actually increasing testosterone in people, I think we're just trying to use music to help motivate them and help keep them there.

Geoff: Sure.

Daniel: I think that if someone was using our music, let's say in the worst case scenario, and they were aggressive, I don't know if that would be our music, it would just be something that their using during it. Like, wearing an orange shirt, been committing a crime. Doesn't mean that people that wear orange shirts-

Geoff: Orange shirt's correlated, or causative. Yeah.

Daniel: Exactly. 

Geoff: Sure.

Daniel: Exactly. There's a lot still that we're discovering and working on, but as of right now we don't have any evidence to show that [crosstalk 00:35:11].

Geoff: Yeah, I think, just with any technology, if we can ostensibly use it for good, there should be, just as there's magnitude for not good. I mean, good or not good is just amoral to science, right?

Daniel: Oh, of course.

Geoff: It's just if we can be more focused, and it stands to reason you could push people to be more distracted or annoyed or some other non-socially acceptable behaviors.

Daniel: I mean, we could, but then no one would use our product.

Geoff: Great. It was just an interesting, theoretical, just, like, discussion as we're talking about some of the interesting brain sets that you're able to help generate.

Daniel: Yeah. Again, I think it's an interesting question. Currently we aren't researching it and from the science scene that we do have on staff, I've actually asked this question, and again, I think it's more about the difference in what you're trying to achieve and what they are.

Because the phase locking, the way it works is it lines up and it gets you there quicker, if it doesn't line up, it doesn't do anything, and that's the secret behind it. So if we're trying to make annoying music and it doesn't line up in creating a certain kind of mental state that we can achieve, then it's not going to work.

Geoff: People are just going to turn it off.

Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. But it's a great question. I mean, I welcome all of it because we're really, to be completely honest, similar to you guys. We're embarking on a completely new path that hasn't been done before.

Geoff: Sure.

Daniel: So I always welcome queries and questions.

Geoff: Part of it's like philosophy in terms of just what are the possibilities? And, of course, we like to save time, energy and resources by moving in philosophical directions that are supported by science evidence otherwise you're just making up your own stories.

Daniel: Yep, exactly.

Geoff: What else is on your radar? Obviously, neural phase locking, music is a big part of how you're optimizing your day. Sounds like you have a pretty heavy travel schedule. What else is in your toolkit of being optimized or productive?

Daniel: Sure. Are you talking about personally or as far as Brain.fm is considered?

Geoff: Personally or Brain.fm.

Daniel: Sure.

Geoff: I think it's just also interesting talking to you as an entrepreneur fellow, CEO, right?

Daniel: Yeah, of course.

Geoff: Like, you're just curious, you know.

Daniel: I think I'll answer them both ways. One is with the Brain.fm is also we have relax and anxiety things that we're working on, so basically having a ability to maybe cool off if you're heated, being able to play nice music. And people already do this right now; be able to chill out. I'm really excited for this because I'm on a plane all the time and, I have to say, even though I fly on planes, when we hit turbulence it bothers me and I pop some music on. You know, doing some of the sleep stuff, like we mentioned. But we're also working combo-ing sleep and using the tracks to help create mental states that lead to another one. 

What I mean by that is we have sleep, and sleep works and it's great, but what if we could make sleep that means, or at the end of it, that you fall asleep and you wake up refreshed? The whole premise is to make our sleep track and then 30 minutes before you wake up we play our focus track and it kind of builds into something. 

What if you took a power nap and the power nap was created so you fall asleep for 20 minutes but five minutes before you're going to wake up we play that workout, that pre-energy, and you woke up with a ton of energy, and how can we actually optimize things that people have done already? So those are some things we're working on. I'm super excited about those, in addition, and we've been playing with them.

Just personally, and I'm not trying to shout out to you guys, but last time when we met, we came up. I've tried coffee cubes before, I've tried the nootropics you guys have, and I want to make sure, especially coming here, I've got to try them all, so I've got them all. I've been using them and I have to say I got re-addicted to coffee cubes. Not only just because they're awesome, but I just love the convenience, especially travelling, 'cause I'm on a plane and I want my Starbucks, and I just go in my bag, I grab a cube.

Geoff: That's awesome.

Daniel: Yeah, that's great.

Geoff: Cool. No, appreciate it. I mean, just curious, any other new things? I think, for me, just getting an Oura ring is just awesome. It's like, to me, an interesting device that's much more useful than a crazy smartwatch, or more convenient than that.

Daniel: Yeah, I'm just trying to think if there's anything. It's funny, I'm probably going to leave and think of three things, but, "Ah, I should've said that." But I do different kind of fastings now, like as far as intermittent fasting, things like that. I've actually changed my diet traveling a lot too. I'm not really super gluten insensitive, but I've changed that, so when I am traveling I don't have any gluten, I don't have any milk. Sounds kind of silly, 'cause I do do it when I'm home, but I think it's with the time zones and the differences, it erases all my mental fog and actually it makes it easier to go to sleep at night.

Geoff: Interesting.

Daniel: Yeah, definitely. So when I do travel, I try to stay more pure, I guess, is the best word. I try to stay away from beer and maybe if I'm going to drink, maybe a vodka soda or something like that.

Geoff: Interesting.

Daniel: It does help as well. Just something I've been experimenting with.

Geoff: No, I think it's something that, for me, it used to be travel days used to be kind of cheat days, in terms of, like, "Oh, I'm in a airport. I can eat that Burger King," and then-

Daniel: I was that way too, but this month I've been home for three days. You name a city, I've been there this month. And there became a time where I was like, "I've gained 10 pounds. Oh, okay. All right." So now, being home for me is cheat days and traveling is more of the diet, yeah.

Geoff: Yeah, I think traveling sometimes is the best days to fast 'cause, okay, if we're going to eat kind of crappy airport food anyways-

Daniel: I'd rather just not eat.

Geoff: Yeah, it's a very constrained time to just, like, you're good at fasting and when you actually get down to New York or Austin or SF, there's awesome food there and just eat really good food while you're actually at the place, the destination, as opposed to eating some airport fast food.

Daniel: Yep, yep. And then actually, one other thing, now that we're on the subject, is last time we chatted you were talking about getting testing strips-

Geoff: Yeah, for our Ketones.

Daniel: Exactly. So I've been going into that diet recently. I have the strips. I've been doing it. It's been really great as far as mental clarity and just even that aside, just feeling really good and feeling like I have some really great energy, and I really do like the ability to have control over my feelings, my emotional state and all that that is connected what you put in your body.

Geoff: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's more and more data around ketosis as an interesting metabolic state to be in.

I think one thing though I thought was interesting is that you're a New Yorker. Thinking about coming to San Francisco ... I mean, this is something can completely throw our conversation here, but there's some discussion that SF is too insular in terms of tech and Silicon Valley. I'm actually curious. As a New Yorker, is that what you perceive? What is your impression? Is that just the tech community being too into themselves and just creating some insular drama?

Daniel: Yeah, I think there's advantages and disadvantages of both cities. I'm actually from Boston, and I moved to New York when I was promoted to CEO, because it's one of those things where unless you're in New York or SF, people are like, "What are you doing?" And that's not always the case, but I think the difference between New York and SF is part-influenced by the culture of New England and people are being a little bit more in a bubble. A lot of people say that New Yorkers are mean, or something like that, and really just people have a bubble up. But if you talk to anyone and you get through that bubble, they're the nicest people, and they're real, which I like. San Francisco has less of a bubble, I would say. You can go up to people and you can talk to them and they're willing to help and more have that karma vibe, I would say.

Geoff: I think New Yorkers, I would say, just to be probably stereotypical-

Daniel: Yeah, let's do it.

Geoff: ... are probably just more direct, at least, which is refreshing too. Everyone's trying to be helpful, but just tell me I'm going to do something or like, "No, I can't help you." Sometimes that's refreshing too.

Daniel: I personally, coming from Boston, I love that. 'Cause the whole way I do business and conduct my personal life and everything is I am brutally honest in a respectful way. I'm not mean or non-professional or something, but I always say what I mean and I'm always transparent in my thoughts and the way I approach things. I appreciate it when I can have that conversation with someone and have a 10-minute thing and get through maybe an uncomfortable spot than rather dragging it out for-

Geoff: And feel-

Daniel: ... a day.

Geoff: ... too awkward to actually approach the crux of the problem.

Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. So there's advantages there. You've been living here a lot longer than I have, so I'll have to see as I live here longer. The one thing that you guys have, though, that I can't say New York has, is you guys have nicer weather than we do all year.

Geoff: And this is a day where it was raining quite heavily today. I guess is compared to what New York is like, yeah, at least we're not in snow.

Daniel: Yeah, exactly. One of the things that wakes me up every day and the reason why I get out of bed is because I feel like we have a responsibility to share this with the world, because I feel that we have this golden egg. I don't want to keep it to myself, I want to share it, and that's also relevant in our pricing and things like that. This is not for the elite alpha member, a $1,000 a month, it is for all of humanity. I think part of our mission is being able to share this and spread it to people as something that can help people, or help them unlock, or really help them normalize or help them unlock what's already inside them.

Geoff: Well said.

Daniel: Yeah, thank you.

Geoff: Dan at Brain.fm. Check out his service, Brain.fm.

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HVMN Co-founders Michael Brandt and Geoffrey Woo