Thursday, March 13, 2014

Music Therapy in Mental Health

To the selfless and generous people that give us hope in humanity, particularly to Claire

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears - it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more - it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.”
― Oliver Sacks

Suffering from any kind of mental trauma or illness is an often distressing and daunting experience. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and OCD can sometimes be lifelong that they require time and patience to overcome, as sufferers will face many ups and downs, as the temptation to relapse into old habits can present themselves at any time. 

Conditions involving severe mental health issues and depression can be complex to treat and every patient will have different needs and goals to meet. A GP or doctor will often be the first point-of-call once the decision to address a specific type of mental illness has been made, but the options available to anyone wanting to recover from anxiety or depression are multifarious. Alongside conventional talking therapies and drug treatments, there are other ways and means of helping people overcome debilitating and chronic mental issues which can feel overwhelming. One of these is Music Therapy.

Music Therapy
It is not all about trips to see doctors and psychiatrists, hospitals and sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings during group sessions, while recovering these days. Creative therapies are proving themselves to be an equally effective form of treatment. The advice given in the DrugAbuse website is that the choice of treatment is important to the recovery process of an individual, whatever the type of mental illness they suffer from is. Choosing the right program should depend entirely on the person’s needs. Music therapy creates sensorimotor responses from the body. This means that both the patient’s sensory and motor capabilities are active at the same time, making it possible to tailor the treatment for each human being based on the depression and anxiety stages the patient is going trough.

Techniques such as this can also be useful for treating people who suffer from addictions, just as they can be used to treat people with other mental conditions. The most extreme end of the spectrum will see a client who will be anxious, easily upset and maybe prone to violent outbursts. Playing a series of compositions at a slow tempo with mellow characteristics, such as soft vibrations, will alter the state of the patient’s autonomic nervous system.

The ANS is a form of control system the body uses to heighten certain feelings (such as anger) as it affects a person’s heart rate, and controlling these nervous feelings; by creating a safe and secure environment the patient relaxes, like when breathing in a paper bag during a panic attack.

Using music therapy, it is possible to teach people to control anxiety. The treatment is broad and does not just involve listening exercises, but also practical sessions where the patient will be involved in playing instruments, combining music with writing and physical exercise.

“There is certainly a universal and unconscious propensity to impose a rhythm even when one hears a series of identical sounds at constant intervals... We tend to hear the sound of a digital clock, for example, as "tick-tock, tick-tock" - even though it is actually "tick tick, tick tick.” 

Consider the above quote too. There is something to be said for the calming, distracting, repetitive action of intoning the same note over and over again, continually repeating the same sounds and phrases, or for instance, if you were playing an instrument such as the guitar, learning to play a riff, or pick – starting off slowly and first, then learning to play it faster over time. The continued action of fingers on string, coupled with the brain’s keen-ness for repetition can be very calming and distracting.

Background Research
Over the past decade there has been several attempts to understand why music therapy provides such effective results. A 2003 report, looks into the effect that drumming groups can have on an addict’s recovery process. 

The report found that drumming, as an activity, was a successful form of therapy due to the repetition involved. Concluding, drumming puts the mind into a state of relaxation, enhancing synchronization between the brain and body, putting the patient into a meditative-like state, as they concentrate solely on the task. Focusing attention on sensorimotor treatment, it's also important to provide an overall balance, taking into consideration all aspects, mentally and physically, of the patients’ well-being, while providing this kind of treatment. Enhancing the understanding of the cognitive and emotional process, is key for the patient's mental healing. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Missing Imogen poetry

Just write

Anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything

anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything anything
anything anything

It's not that I am boring

anything anything anything anything anything

Is not that I don't care

anything anything anything anything anything

Is not that I don't want to

anything anything anything

Maybe I don't need to

anything anything anything

I don't have much spare time


I've got all drinking fit in


and the washing working eating sleeping washing working eating sleeping washing working eating sleeping

days keep blurring into one another

so ultimately

I end up without


to say

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fitter Happier More deductive

Extracts from insights on Radiohead

We are often stunned and we are often distracted, and we are bewildered almost all of the time. And the only weapon we have—as individuals and as a scatter of grouplets—is the delicate brain now so perilously balanced in the struggle for public sanity. . . . We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor.

Our ever deepening dependence and engagement with the technologies of modern life, therefore, may lead to changes in our selves, to ourselves, that we might in fact reject or regret were we to understand them and see them for what they are. We might all collapse in shock or despair were we to face some truths about ourselves—truths that we never paid attention to, that no one ever talked about, even though they were obvious and in front of our faces all along. What would really hurt, of course, is realizing that that we’d done it to ourselves.

If you accepted the constant promiscuous broadcasts as normalcy, there were messages in them to inflate and pet and flatter you. If you realize this chatter was altering your life, killing your privacy or ending the ability to think in silence. It was up to you to change the channel, not answer the phone, stop your ears, shut your eyes, dig a hole for yourself and get in it. Really, it was your responsibility.

It doesn’t name a single enemy. It doesn’t propose revolution. It doesn’t call you to overthrow an order that you couldn’t take hold of anyway at any single point, not without scapegoating a portion and missing the whole. This defiance—it might be the one thing we can manage, and better than sinking beneath the waves. It requires the retention of a private voice.

Meanings are fluid and just as we think we’ve gotten something into focus, it seems to dissolve before our eyes. It often derives in a kind of anxiety not because meaning our own lives are continually challenged by an indifferent world. It is caused by never quite succeeding in bringing into focus what those meaning might be. Given every body as itself a part of the world, there cannot be firm boundaries to calm us. But if boundaries are uncertain and meanings fluid, there’s also the possibility of establishing new boundaries and constructing new meanings. Opening the possibility for reconstruction.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Narcissism II: Does it lead to the lack of new ideas?

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."

Although narcissistic individuals are generally perceived as arrogant and overly dominant, by showing their self-confidence, authority and other characteristics they tend to be seen as effective leaders. So they tend to emerge as leaders (such as Hitler). It was found that although narcissistic leaders are perceived as effective they actually inhibit information exchange between group members and thereby negatively affects group performance.

Some have the false belief that big ideas have migrated to the marketplace. There is a vast difference between profit-making inventions and intellectually challenging thoughts. Marketplace ideas may change the way we live, but they rarely transform the way we think.

We live in the Age of Information. Courtesy of the Internet, we seem to have immediate access to anything that anyone could ever want to know. We are certainly the most informed generation in history. We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward

The post-idea world emerged along the social networking world. Even though there are sites and blogs dedicated to ideas the most popular sites on the Web, are basically information exchanges, designed to feed the insatiable information hunger, without the kind of information that tends to generates ideas.

We have become information narcissists, so uninterested in anything outside ourselves and our friendship circles or in any tidbit we cannot share with those friends that if a Marx or a Nietzsche were suddenly to appear, blasting his ideas, no one would pay the slightest attention, certainly not the general media, which have learned to service our narcissism.

Amira made me realize the need to expand previous post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Narcissistic Epidemic

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."

Cultural values had radically changed provoking an important modification in social and individual behavior. It started when people began to expose their private life in public and to provoke or participate in public scandals that were transmitted through mass media. This behavior allowed many of them to became public figures (famous persons). Being the center of attention became an important cultural value. Why they became famous had no importance at all.

The change in cultural values, along with the need to interact more with computers and less with humans (reducing empathy), was probably among the factors that triggered this epidemic.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM IV, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It has been decided, not so long ago, that narcissism should not be considered a personality disorders, the DSM-V will not include this condition.

Did it became too common to be classified as a mental illness? Probably It is not convenient for US reputation to have such a high percentage of mentally-ill people, therefore they removed this disorder along with 4 others. Nowadays most US citizens are considered as mentally healthy.

Narcissism is so pervasive that impacts core social values to the point of provoking irrational behaviors. Our culture is replete with examples of them which are symptoms and contributing factors to narcissism:

- Botox and tanning to fulfill unrealistic notions of physical beauty

- Greed and materialism with emphasis on extravagant homes

- Social networking (vacuous and/or inappropriate content: 25% of teen girls have appeared nude)

- Music lyrics (the average teen spends at least thirty minutes a day listening to songs describing degrading sex)

- "Hooking Up" (a convenient phrase for very casual sexual relationships)

- Loss of perspective between work and pay, value of a dollar, and value of earning for accomplishment


suRELY we shOuld
our sELF
wHO We are
who they aRe
who yoU are

exhibITionISm kILLs the cat, thoUGH...

By human being (An amazing one), A.K.A. nooshin azadi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Processing visualization software

Two weekends ago I went to a city in the beach, to visit a friend, and she asked me if I was interested in participate in a workshop about art, technology and the earth. I always liked being around artist so I went. There a couple of artist I met introduced me to the works of John Maeda, and his disciples at the aesthetics and computational group at the MIT. They created Processing. This software is an open source programming language that was created by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. It was built for the electronic arts and visual design communities.

The following are some images that actually are being filled with lines and color as time pases, but I could not capture that effect in this blog, so I decided to show the stills. This forms are bases mainly in two simple numerical series: Fibonacci and Factorial.

Hope at list this encourages people to experiment with art and technology, considering that I did never perform any kind of plastic artwork before.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Artificial Intelligence and Humanity II

Technological advance
Nowadays chatterbots perform much better on the Turing test than they used to. Maybe not because they are getting better at imitating human chats; but because this skill has deteriorated in humans due to its restricted use. The ability to chat trough a computer can be replaced, partly, by intelligent computer programs.
Current text editors include the following functionalities: predictive algorithms that recommend the following word to be written. Spell check validation showing several alternatives to replace the misspelled word by the option chosen by the user. Automatic syntax validation, alerting the user by underlying the wrong sentence and pointing to the defective segment; it also allows the computer to correct the sentence by itself when desired by the user. Automatically replace words that are constantly repeated by a suggested synonym. These tools tend to make us dependent of the program utilities to be able to chat correctly.
Humans no longer need to have several skills because they can be performed by computers, many of these tasks can be done faster and with a higher degree of accuracy. These skills include the abilities to execute math calculations, translating a text from one language to another, the organization of large amounts of data, finding the quickest or shortest path to go from one place to another, etc. This allows us to develop other abilities which tend to be less repetitive and more creative.
Differences between humans and computers
Dorian Cole compares the "I am" statement pronounced by a human to the traditional first words of a computer program: "Hello World." A computer presents an output to human beings through an interface so that people know that it is working. The computer responds to external programs. One could hang a sign on a window saying, "Hello World," and we would see it as an imitation of the task performed by the computer program. But interpreting a sign that says, "I am," would be a difficult task.
Computers are able to change their main processing structure. They are also able to modify by themselves their software structure, which is the part that indicates what procedures they should follow. Since their creation they have been meliorating in an exponential way which makes them immensely more powerful than when they appeared. Human brains aren’t able to self-improve neither to modify themselves in such a radical way machines can. We can progress only in small increments. We can improve ourselves by learning, practice, hone our skills and acquire knowledge. Also new discoveries can increase our ability to make further discoveries. Anyway our brains today are much the same as they were ten thousand years ago.
The myth of the scientific method as the only approach to reality will become completely obsolete without loss to man's interaction with this world. The path to understanding has to be prepared by a lineal but also mysterious approach of hunches and intuitions in addition to direct perceptions and sensations.
The right hemisphere was presumed to be more “primitive” than the left because the latest deals with language, math, perform tasks in a logical and sequential order and is more specialized than the other. The right brain was also wrongly labeled as "primitive" because left brain abilities where considered more valuable. The right hemisphere process music, body language, works in a more intuitive way, and approaches things as a hole. Notice that no education system thought children to dance with the same determination they thought them mathematics. Education was mainly focused in training the left hemisphere; by better educating, valuating, rewarding and nurturing those abilities. They used to train students in order to develop skills similar to computers.
According to Brian Christian many people consider the history of AI a dehumanizing process; however it can also be considered as the opposite. We build these algorithms and computers imitating what we know about us, leveraging all the understanding of ourselves that we have. Subsequently we can see where they make a mistake. That error always has something new to teach us about who we are.
The inhuman gave us an appetite for the human; Computers and education helped us understand our need to change the priorities of the brain areas we focus in. We might have already seen the high-water mark of the left hemisphere bias; and started our return to a more balanced view of the brain and the mind.
This new level of understanding bring us real benefits including increased drive towards invention and creativity and increased positive emotions and enhancing our mental states.