Will Tallent/ The Paisano
It’s the night before a test and students are cramminglast minute information. Some cocoon in the library late into the night; othersfrantically cram in the seclusion of their rooms.
Many of these students are able to stay awake thanks tocaffeinated drinks, while others turn to different kinds of drugs.
According to the National Center for Addiction andSubstance Abuse, roughly a third of students struggling through their collegestudies abuse prescription ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) medicationssuch as Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin. Based on this statistic, as many as10,000 students at UTSA may be using ADHD medication to get ahead in theirstudies.
Taking performance-enhancing drugs can come at a highprice. Prescription medication can cause side effects. These include increasedheart rates, insomnia and marked irritability.
In the wake of the increasing demand for energy and mentalclarity among college students, an innovative and cutting edge method oftherapy has been developed free of any side effects.
Brain Shift Radio, an Internet site that allows users tomanipulate different beats according to their desired mental state, hasincreased in popularity as a way to increase mental performance.
The Strong Institute, a developer of brain stimulationprograms for individuals with neurological disorders, created the site as amusical supplement to common prescription drugs. Founded in 1994, the StrongInstitute is known primarily for work with autistic individuals.
“Our work started with children on the Autism Spectrum,”states Strong. “We found rhythmic combinations that caused immediate calm. Theperfect mix of novelty (in the complexity of the rhythmic stimulus) andprogressive stimulation made for a unique approach to so many of the challengesfaced by individuals with Autism. As our data grew, so did our ability toaddress more complex and varied symptoms of neurological disorders.”
The institute claims to have developed a musical therapysite that is nearly twice as effective as 20mg of Ritalin (a focus enhancingdrug) through the use of what is known as Rhythmic Entertainment Intervention.The technique behind Rhythmic Entertainment Intervention involves mapping howthe brain can change in function once it is subjected to auditory stimulation.The Strong Institute has used Rhythmic Entertainment Intervention for nearly 30years by developing different rhythmic patterns to stimulate the brain in veryspecific ways.
“We are not doing anything new here,” says Brain ShiftRadio Creative Director Jeff Strong. “For tens of thousands of years, indisparate cultures across the globe, rhythm has been used to shiftconsciousness and address abnormalities in cognitive function. We have simplytaken the culture out of the mix. We have put on the lab coat and worked tounderstand what rhythms drive the brain toward improved performance. BrainShift Radio is the current manifestation of our neurological work.
Simply put, you can take control of your brain without theuse of drugs.”
Strong, who currently deals with adult ADHD, had beenpursuing the use of rhythms to improve cognitive function when he found thatdrumming helped improve his focus.
“The Strong Institute is known for our out-of-the-boxapproach to neurological disorders,” says Strong. “We are simply improving upontechniques that have been around an awfully long time.”
Could an Internet hosted radio site legitimately replaceprescription medication? Strong boasts about of the radio’s capabilities. “Brain Shift Radio is an innovationthat could very well disrupt the status quo of campus illicit drug use. It isproven to improve focus,” he claims. “It is non-addictive, has no side effects,and does not induce habituation.”
Rhythmic Entertainment Intervention has also been used asmusic therapy for other mental disorders, including anxiety, brain injuries,Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and sleep disorders. Brain Shift Radio is simplythe newest tool available in this form of auditory therapy.
The Strong Institute also claims that, unlike the use ofdrugs such as Adderall or Vyvanse, Brain Shift Radio facilitates long termincrease in the ability to focus and have mental clarity.
The creators of the site look towards music therapy as thenewer and more holistic alternative to prescription medication. Music therapyis an established health-care profession that studies the therapeutic effectsof music on patients afflicted with emotional, cognitive and social disorders.
Michael Greene, president and CEO of NARAS (NationalAcademy of Recording Arts and Sciences) said of music therapy, “When we look atthe body of evidence that the arts contribute to our society, it’s absolutelyastounding. Music therapists are breaking down the walls of science and afflictionof autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.”
For $6.99 a month or $59.00 a year, the site operates in away that allows the user to choose from a variety of tempos and beats that varyin speed and rhythm.
Once users have created an account, they will be able tochoose different beats to change their mental state to have more energy,meditate, uplift their mood, be calm, increase focus, sleep or just in general“boost the brain.”
In what can be described as varying beats made by tribaldrums, the beats vary by beats per second and rhythm complexity to alter themental state. Additionally, the listener is allowed to choose from a variety offive levels of intensity within each mood category, depending on how intenselythe altered state of mind is desired.
Students at UTSA are trying Brain Shift Radio to determineif this new form of music therapy really lives up to its hype. “After ‘boostingmy mood’ for a little while, I decided to use the radio to my advantage and‘improve my focus,’” says senior Spanish major Kevin Forester.
“My brain and mood shifted and I enjoyed the music. Istuck with Brain Shift Radio a bit longer and decided the trial is worthrevisiting, but, as a paid subscriber to Spotify, I think I’ll stick to payingfor only one internet music program.”
Whether or not Brain Shift Radio is worth its cost is thedecision of the individual user. The site boasts that, with the one-month freetrial, users will feel they can use the radio to successfully manipulate theirmental state without the potentially harmful effects of prescription drugs.