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Dr. Lee Bartel is a leading researcher and expert on how our cells are affected by sound. In this podcast, he discusses

  • the intellectual journey that brought his music therapy focus to this point,
  • how different soundwave frequencies affect different goals for the patient, from achieving deep sleep to helping attention issues, and
  • how these methods are backed up by research, including for treatment for Alzheimer’s, back pain, and depression.


Lee Bartel is a Professor Emeritus of Music and a former Associate Dean of Research with the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. He’s also Founding Director of the 
Music and Health Research Collaboratory.

He begins by telling listeners about his road to this point in his career. His graduate work explored the basics of music therapy. As he moved into clinical work, he interacted with kids who’d undergone brain injuries, using music to rehabilitate various cognitive functions. He became more interested in music in relationship to brain circuits and functions.

He then began working with Summerset Entertainment, using specific rhythmic structures for brain training, entering further into neuroscience music therapy. These steps in his career expanded his own ideas of how music affected people. He intensified this concept of music as a sound vibration or a pulse stimulus that might affect states like Delta brain waves (our deepest sleep state).

In fact, researchers found they could document brain cells firing at the frequency of the stimulus. Therefore, they could use a stimulus to bring about desired brain states like Delta sleep, which measures at about 40 hertz.

Dr. Bartel and fellow researchers explored other cell reactions. They found that when blood vessels were exposed to a certain stimulus rates, the vessels would repeat that rate, which had implications for more medical conditions.

He explains how these stimulus pulses affect multiples levels of bodily functions and brain patterns, even to the point of intra brain communication, helping one side of the brain synchronize with the other. Such neuroscience music therapy was shown to help kids who’d gone through cancer treatments help renew gamma activity.

As the conversation continues, Dr. Bartel gets more specific about the various ways music therapy treats sleep disorders. He notes that typical sleep studies focus on oxygen levels and less on brain cell frequency.

But when Dr. Bartel and researchers worked with people who had reported not sleeping well, they found that patients rated their sleep as deeply improved after playing them recordings of pulse rates conducive to brain waves for deep sleep.

Dr. Bartel says, however, that what he’s most excited about and what’s most newsworthy are the studies in pain alleviation and sleep with fibromyalgia patients. They used a pulse stimulus of 40 hertz and saw a dramatic change in sleep, pain, depression, and quality of life ratings for these patients. The implications are substantial: he says this means that we can reregulate brain circuits and cellular function rather than just brain states. 

He goes on to explain how these studies and methods are also applied to patients who experience depression with satisfying results as well as Alzheimer’s patients. He describes the methods for each, and includes details about longevity, how the results are cumulative yet need consistent exposure to the pulse stimulus for the treatment to continue holding. 

Finally, he points listeners to resources, including his website at http://www.bartelcameronassoc.com/, which has a link to his popular Tedtalk, a link to buy four of his soundtracks, and a link to buy the tactile and sound device called The Sound Oasis VTS1000, which was used in his research.

He notes that his CDs are available on ITunes and Amazon.

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