Hey Reddit! I’m Daniel Clark, CEO of Brain.fm. We use AI to generate music specifically to help people focus, relax and sleep, backed by science. In particular, our popular Focus music is useful for people who must get through a lot of work without distraction, procrastination, or boredom.

ADHD affects over 8M adults in the U.S. alone, with current solutions causing near-epidemic growth of prescription stimulants. An additional 4M do not meet all the criteria to be diagnosed with ADHD, so they can’t be prescribed medication and have no convenient alternatives for treatment.

Recently, Brain.fm received a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct further research and validate our music as a non-invasive therapeutic tool to help people who suffer from inattention, regardless of whether they meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. This music is uniquely designed to impact neural oscillations to aid sustained attention to a task. Brain.fm is the only company of its kind to date to receive this sort of recognition from the government.

Today, I’m doing this AMA with support from our Director of Science, Kevin J.P. Woods, PhD, to formally announce the grant we received from the NSF, and to drive awareness of our platform to people who need it! We’re both long-time Redditors, so we’re super pumped to chat with you all today, ask us anything!

My proof: https://twitter.com/BrainfmApp/status/971472363849224198

EDIT: We’re getting a lot of questions around our scientific claims. We wanted to clarify that this AMA is to announce our NSF grant and share our excitement around our ongoing research, rather than announcing the publication of a journal article (which would come at the end of the grant). Also, wanted to clarify we are not trying to replace medication but on the track to potentially becoming an alternative for many people--if you have ADHD, I am not claiming that you should stop your current treatment, or that we have the cure, but we are excited for the future and want to share where we are headed.

EDIT #2: Hey everyone we’re signing off now (3:30p EST). It has been a lot of fun chatting with you and hearing your questions and your feedback! Feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have more questions. To the future! 🚀

Comments: 1938 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

magicmonkeymeat25 karma

Purchased a lifetime subscription years ago, and I'm impressed with your slow but steady growth. Thanks for all that you do.

I've submitted this request before, but it still hasn't made it's way into the app: Why isn't there longer versions of the unguided meditation tracks? I find it to be the most productive track on your site.

brainfmCEO21 karma

Slow and steady wins the race! Great to hear the meditations tracks are working great. The reason we haven’t gotten around to extending those tracks yet is that we generally get more requests around the focus and sleep channels and have been concentrating our resources there. But not to worry- our team is growing fast and we’ll get on your request very soon!

GhostTheSavage1 karma

How do you typically use the meditation section? I haven’t tried yet. Avid focus and nap user.

brainfmCEO3 karma

I would suggest using it like any other meditation session you would do. Get to a comfortable position, close your eyes and try to clear your mind.

JustKaleidoscope6618 karma

Does this only help with ADHD, or other issues such as anxiety, which can make it hard for people to focus as well?

brainfmCEO17 karma

At the moment our research effort is going into helping people with attentional issues (not particularly due to anxiety). But we have a separate channel for music to help you relax! Perhaps in your case where anxiety is making you unable to focus, it could turn out that our relax channel is even more effective than our focus channel in helping you work! -- Kevin

Mackinstyle34 karma

Posting here because it's not a question and will get removed.

I've battled ADHD most of my life. The medications all work so well but they mutate me into a different person (focused, socially incompetent). Now that I have a son, I cannot be on the medications because they can take me to some very dark places when they're wearing off for the day. So I've spent the last year trying to learn how to work from home full-time without them.

My best solution so far has been streams of 70s euro disco. I think it works because it's familiar, kinda boring, very repetitive, good rhythm. But I've been listening to your stuff for maybe an hour now and just holy crap where has this been all my life? I think I might cry a little.

One other thing I love about this service is that it's a simple, straightforward product: "give us money and we'll use it to do science and make content." You're not trying to social media me. You're not trying to sell my data. You're not trying to manipulate me. Thanks for sticking to an honest business model.

brainfmCEO22 karma

Hey! Thank you! ❤️

This is why we do what we do.

There are a lot of questions here, but this is the reason I'm part of this company. The first time I heard the music and had the AHA moment it completely blew me away. I feel like we have a tool to help people of all walks of life and we have a responsibility to build a product to help as many people as we can and share it. It's for this reason we try to keep our prices low. We had some feedback in some early user testing people would pay $50+ a month for something like this and we could market to the elite. I'm sure it would help in building out a product, but our real mission is to allow anyone to use this and not just the 1%.

Thanks again!

GVerhofstadt9 karma

I've been a early adopter and can honestly say that out of all the binaural beats and similar things I've tried, brain.fm is the only thing that can calm my mind or give me extra focus. Worth every penny! I'm always pushing my friends to try it.

My only question is why does the iOS app feel like it's from 2010? Give mobile some love guys.

brainfmCEO10 karma

Haha thanks for the honest feedback! We are aware the iOS App needs some love and we are hard at work improving it. We are a small team, but we are working as hard as we can creating new features and updating existing experiences like streaming and more! I appreciate your patience and your love of the product 🚀

jondhaff9 karma

Are you planning to expand your services to outside sources/devices, like playstation music or alexa? I would love to be able to listen on a different more ambient level with my surround sound :)

brainfmCEO16 karma

We are! There are a few key considerations we have watch out for and overcome first however. Since our AI interacts with the music frequencies, the way sound bounces in a room is very important to take into consideration. Our focus music uses higher frequency oscillations compared to our sleep music for example. We are currently working on remastering sleep to account for this, and then plan on releasing services on Google, Alexa, Sonos, Tivoli, smart TVs and more.

You can connect a high fidelity bluetooth speaker for sleep, but we still will recommend headphones for Focus and other products!

DrScott029 karma

I have been a happy customer of Brain.FM for a few years now, and can provide some anecdotal evidence that the sounds (music?) used for sleeping and focus have worked wonders for me.

What I am wondering is: what exactly does your 'AI' do to create the final product? What do you train it on? Is this a supervised or unsupervised machine learning problem?

I guess it is really easy to slap AI on something nowadays and get lots of attention, but as someone who works in the field it is difficult to understand how you use it without collecting huge amounts of data from human subjects.

brainfmCEO7 karma

So glad to hear you’re liking it! Here is a brief rundown of our music-making process (from response to volfort): Humans compose the musical content (the art: melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, sound design, instrument choices, etc.) Then, our AI arranges these motifs over long timescales, and adds the acoustic features which constitute our core technology (the science: modulation to alter brain activity, 3D spatialization, salience reduction, etc.). Finally, compositions are assessed by human listeners in-house and tweaked or discarded if necessary, and are tested via large-scale experiments.

Our AI system helps our composers efficiently produce long compositions, and also imposes the right acoustic features at the right times (depending on what the music is doing) to produce the mental effects we want. We are now collecting huge amounts of data from human subjects (doing crowdsourced behavioral experiments) and will be using this to implement supervised learning in the near future.

jimmyrocks7 karma

I use your service everyday! Both to sleep and to work.

I like to use it as a 30 minute timer for work as a kind of "pomodoro". Although I really wish there was a 25 minute time setting instead of 30 for this use.

So my question is: Is there any kind of API I can use to start / stop the service? Or possibly plans to support custom times instead of the predefined 30, 60, 120?

brainfmCEO12 karma

Thanks for your support! We do have plans to launch a pomodoro timer actually. We are testing focus music and silence, or focus music to relaxed focus and back. We don’t support a custom API, but are hoping to add in custom timing shortly!

This is also great feedback from our users. Thank you a ton for letting me know what is important to you!

srilyk3 karma

it would be great to have a 25m pom mode where the last few minutes tries to "wake you up" - I find a lot of the time I end out still deep in focus even after my 30m lol.

brainfmCEO10 karma

Yes! We are playing with this here, but also in our sleep product. Imagine if you slept for 8 hours and the last 30 minutes a focus track played to make you wake up feeling refreshed. We are currently testing this now!

fade4noreason7 karma

Hey Daniel!

A few questions:

Are there any plans

  1. for Sonos integration?
  2. for updating the iOS App to support split view and all those other multitasking features of iOS?
  3. for adding more songs to the service in the near future?
  4. for new categories (and if so, what are you targeting?)

Thanks! Good service, use it almost every day.

brainfmCEO8 karma

Hey! Yes we have plans for sonos integration and a heavy facelift to our iOS app. We also have a ton of new music coming out as we have completely redone our AI Music Engine. For focus, first music coming up is more electronic and atmospheric. We are also working on LoFi and post rock too.

What’s your current favorite?

Secondhand_Crack7 karma


I used your app daily while studying for my certification exams (bought the full version and everything!), but recently I’ve switched over to binaural beats and I have to say I haven’t gone back. The only thing that I absolutely love about your app is the generated music which other apps are seriously behind on...

Can you convince me to come back? How much different is what you offer from binaural beats? Is there more scientific proof to it?

brainfmCEO7 karma

Oh interesting- mostly we hear from people moving in the other direction. Brain.fm is very different from binaural beats. Binaural beats use stereo separation to create phantom modulation in the brainstem, which is not what Brain.fm is doing. Although both use acoustic modulation, Brain.fm also includes many other sound features designed to help you reach particular mental states. Just to give a few examples, our sleep music uses 3D spatialization to produce relaxing auditory motion (‘rocking’), and our focus music filters out high frequencies that can otherwise be distracting. Our research is coming along very well and we got a government grant to support our technology! Here is a link to a document with some of our ongoing research --Kevin

KamehameBoom6 karma

what's your favorite kind of Gatorade?

brainfmCEO16 karma

Glacier Frost of course!

brainfmCEO15 karma

Kevin objects- Lemon-lime ftw

tauwell5 karma

What happens with the ratings I give to Brain.fm sessions? How is my 'personalized brainwave profile' determined?

Thanks for making such a great product, it's had a huge impact on my life over the last three years! :)

brainfmCEO5 karma

First off, amazing to hear that what we created had such an impact for you. Everyone on the team believes in our quest to redefine what music can do through science, and I’m happy that you’ve been with us from the beginning.

The rating system so far has been a pilot program to measure the effectiveness of the music, and also a method to better understand the musical taste of our users. We take into account those ratings, but also skips and length of sessions played. We match people to the best tracks and serve them sessions according to this.

V2 of our music scoring system will include a thumbs up / thumbs down and a favorite button! We will plug this into our AI directly and enable track creation in more direct response to user feedback, and also add in collaborative filtering and split testing and more.

mikeh20174 karma

Hi Daniel and Kevin, congrats on the grant.

I’ve used the service while working for almost 2 years now; it’s become my most valuable tool besides physical exercise for concentration. Having invested in it for work, I was surprised at how nice the meditation and sleep programs are for reflection and quickly winding down at the end of the day, and it’s now a central part of my nightly routine.

How much of your music generation system can you share? And what’s your roadmap (business, product) from here?

Thanks for everything you’ve done so far!

brainfmCEO8 karma

Thanks so much great to hear you like it! Here is a quick rundown of our music-generation process (without getting too specific): Humans compose the musical content (the art: melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, sound design, instrument choices, etc.) Then, a patented algorithmic system (A.I.) arranges these motifs over long timescales, and adds the acoustic features which constitute our core technology (the science: modulation to alter brain activity, 3D spatialization, salience reduction, etc.). Finally, compositions are assessed by human listeners in-house and tweaked or discarded if necessary, and are tested via large-scale experiments.

We have some really exciting things coming up in our roadmap. Here’s a few to highlight:

  1. Retooling our sleep music to work more effectively over high end speakers (Tivoli, Sonos, Bose, etc.)

  2. Redesigning our apps and website to not only look cool, but grow with you and personalize the UX for how you use it.

  3. My personal favorite - workout music. We are just testing it now, but it makes me super excited from the results I’ve experienced so far.

Aaaaaagh3 karma

Hey guys, I use your product to sleep every night. I've always been a bit of a neurotic sleeper that needed some sort of background white noise, and this really helps (a) put me to sleep and (b) drown out my neighbors' crappy music.

Given the fact that you got a grant to study the Focus aspects of your service, do you have any plans to study the Sleep aspects in more detail?

brainfmCEO3 karma

Yes absolutely. We did a pilot study on our sleep music which was very promising, but then we got the NSF grant for focus and had to allocate resources to that. We are very excited to get back to the sleep research as our team grows!

Eedurt3 karma

I have kids with ADHD but have never been diagnosed myself. I find working while using Brain.fm to be extremely helpful, even though in the past, all through school, etc., I could never work or study with music in the background. I think this is because most music has distracting words or recognizable musical phrases, while your music doesn't have those. Can you please explain the science behind your app and whether there are other reasons why it works for distractible people?

brainfmCEO11 karma

Great question! Using music to work can be a double-edged sword, because music can be very distracting (especially music with vocals or particular acoustic qualities). We use a variety of techniques to reduce distraction. For example, sudden changes in the music are usually avoided, as are strong melodies, very-high (tinny/squeaky) or very-low (rumbly) frequencies, all of which can catch your attention and cause distraction. Also, a normal playlist will change tracks every couple of minutes, which can be distracting, but we deliver long-form pieces of 30 minutes or more to avoid these discontinuities. --Kevin

HappyNacho2 karma

What new updates are planned for 2018?

I bought a lifetime subscription and I'm happy but overall I would like new things added.

brainfmCEO3 karma

Woot! Thanks for buying a lifetime subscription 🚀 We have a ton of updates coming for 2018.

  1. Retooling our sleep music to work more effectively over high end speakers (Tivoli, Sonos, Bose, etc.)

  2. Redesigning our apps and website to not only look cool, but grow with you and personalize the UX for how you use it.

  3. My personal favorite - workout music. We are just testing it now, but it makes me super excited from the results I’ve experienced so far.

  4. Pomodoro Timers

  5. International Language Support

And a ton more. Obviously this changes as things come up, but we are super excited to keep improving! Always feel free to send us an email at [email protected] to tell us your most desired updates too!

timmyriddle2 karma

Congratulations on your achievements with Brain.fm so far. I've been a user for a couple of years and think it's a great product. I use it almost everyday in my job (developing software) and keep it as a pinned tab.

I've read about your journey and the development of the AI used to generate music and it's great to see what a small core team (just two of you to start with IIRC) can build.

I have three questions!

  1. Do you consider the development of the AI component "finished" or does it need further iteration and improvement?
  2. I read in another answer you said that there's a load of new music appearing soon. In future, would you consider adding new music at a steadier trickle rather than a once-in-two-year dump?
  3. The guided meditations are great, but I've heard the handful that are on there many, many times. Would you consider producing some more?

Thanks for your hard work, and well done on your success so far.

brainfmCEO2 karma

Thank you! We try our best here and are trying to keep improving. From just 2 people we’ve actually grown to a team of 20!

  1. I don’t think we’ll ever be ‘finished’ with improving the AI. There is always things to add and redefine especially as better and better technology emerges that we can integrate with what we are doing.

  2. Yes! We do have plans to release more music at a steady pace. I’ve tried to answer before, but we actually have redone our AI. The way we develop music is in a grouping of songs instead of just one and it’s why you’ve seen that in the past. Soon you will see more and more sessions added more regularly.

  3. Yes Meditation is on the roadmap. We’ve been primarily focused on Focus (no pun intended) and sleep, but will start to work on meditation more. Especially now that I hear how many more people have a desire for more tracks!

ommirandap2 karma

Hi, thanks for all the work you put into Brain.fm, I have been using it for more than a year I think and I find it really awesome.

I'm doing my M.Sc. degree on data mining and I'm really want to know how the audio is generated (the big picture of course), I have read the white paper but leave me with more questions than answers. Has some "deep learning" in it? (wavenet maybe)

PD: any plans on opening a position for research or research dev? :P

brainfmCEO2 karma

Great to hear you’re liking it! Here is a short description of our music-making process: Humans compose the musical content (the art: melodies, harmonies, chord progressions, sound design, instrument choices, etc.) Then, our AI arranges these motifs over long timescales, and adds the acoustic features which constitute our core technology (the science: modulation to alter brain activity, 3D spatialization, salience reduction, etc.). Finally, compositions are assessed by human listeners in-house and tweaked or discarded if necessary, and are tested via large-scale experiments to ensure they have the properties required to help listeners attain and sustain desired mental states over long periods of time. --Kevin

We are always interested in research positions. Feel free to shoot your info to [email protected] --Dan

Knetchs2 karma

Hey guys. Grants on the Grant! I've been using Brain.fm for quite a while and even got a few co-workers hooked.

My question is: Given the utility and accessibility of your product, what is a market or an activity where you would personally, love to see it used? What would feel like an achievement for you? (example: government med to assist with PTSD)

brainfmCEO3 karma

Thanks for spreading the word! One long term goal is getting FDA approval as a treatment for ADHD and to be one of the first digital treatments available for prescription. This is a long road but will be a huge win! Since you mention PTSD, we have many users who have PTSD who write into us to tell us how we are the only way they can sleep. We are looking into collaborations with the VA and other government assistance to help people with PTSD adjust better- this is something I would love to do this. If there is anyone reading this that can help, please DM me!

Dharmatron2 karma

Hey guys! I've used Brain.fm for over three years (lifetime member!) and I absolutely love it. Even when I don't want to get work done, if I turn it on, 20 minutes later I'm powering through my task.

Anyway, are there are any plan to add a visual component to the web app in the future (swirling colors, etc.)?

brainfmCEO3 karma

Interesting! The reason we don’t have a visual component is that people usually use brain.fm while doing other things with their eyes (deskwork, etc.). But is the idea that it would help you during this ‘power-up period’ before you start working? --Kevin

hilary12112 karma

Sounds cool! How do you get the maximum benefit from listening to Brain.fm?

brainfmCEO2 karma

Personally, or scientifically? I personally put on noise canceling headphones and drink an iced coffee (I’m from New England). Also, make sure that you have a comfortable volume and are hydrated. Don’t necessarily listen to the music, but let it fade into the background as your work.

TehKarmah2 karma

That's fantastic! My 12 year old recently felt he was ready to stop his meds after working really hard on his coping skills. Are there any samples of this music available for the public?

Edit: apologies, on my phone and missed the link. Are there samples available on YouTube?

brainfmCEO1 karma

Awesome! We think Brain.fm will be most useful for people who don’t need heavy meds all the time (for example, people who only use meds while working). You can try us on your phone or the computer. You get 5 free sessions immediately. [Brain.fm website] (www.brain.fm)

talkingboy2 karma

Hi, is it true that human brain needs to relax in silence at night? Is it true that any noise during sleep has a bad influence on our brain?

brainfmCEO2 karma

The brain needs a consistent environment to properly rest, since the brain (even the auditory system when sleeping) responds to change in the world. Silence is a kind of consistency, but music can provide consistency as well. An example of ‘bad’ noise would be road noise, which has unpredictable loud events, or music with dynamic changes or vocals, which catch your attention and can disrupt sleep. --Kevin

brainfmCEO2 karma

There are always noises that affect your brain. If you are sleeping and I say your name, you’ll wake up because your brain is always on and paying attentions for alerts, or what used to be ‘danger’ thousands of years ago. Even though we don’t have the same dangers, our brains are still listening for them. For this same reason is why most people sleep better during thunderstorms - most predators don’t hunt during them. --Daniel (non scientist)

GlitteringMatter2 karma

Hey Daniel - I was an early adopter of Brain.fm and have been in contact with Aaron a couple of times.

Since you guys are ramping up, do you have any need for awesome audio engineering and music production talent? If so, who is best to talk to about it?

Congratulations on the grant!

brainfmCEO1 karma

Thanks for being an early adopter! I know we have a lot of people who want to be on the music team and its a process to make sure they have the background to be able to work in the different way we create music. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] and write my name in it so I can make sure you get to the right person!

arunnnn2 karma

Has there been any thoughts on changing the desktop site so it's similar to the iOS app, in that the different tracks have a more interesting background image than just a solid color?

brainfmCEO3 karma

Yes, we are currently working on redesigning the website and the phone apps to be more unified and better adapt to how you use the service. If you mostly use sleep, for example, sleep would appear first instead of focus and the app would “remember” your favorite kind of sessions.

We are hard at work on this and will be releasing this to power users first when it’s ready to test!

btr2tv2 karma

Have you seen the new Netflix Documentary Take Your Pills? If so, what did you think?

brainfmCEO2 karma

I’m going to be honest - I haven’t been able to see it and neither has Kevin. As you can imagine we are really busy! I’ve heard it’s about ADHD and the epidemic we are currently trying to aid with however. I’ll need to add it to my list when I have some free time.

What do you think Brain.fm can learn from it?

liminal2 karma

Does the app require headphones for the effects to work? Does it work better with headphones?

brainfmCEO3 karma

It doesn’t require headphones to work, but the way sound travels in a room and bounces off objects has minute effects that will throw off the precise nature of what we are doing and can dampen the impact. For best results (especially for focus) we suggest using headphones.

wherethelightisnt2 karma

Are you hiring?! I'm a professional recording engineer, musician and songwriter and this is SO COOL.

brainfmCEO3 karma

Haha, thank you! We are hiring, but just more on the developer side - JS and iOS devs shout at me! Feel free to send your resume to [email protected] though and tag me in it. I’ll make sure the music team sees it.

fade4noreason2 karma

One more thing: I am also a lifetime subscriber to another service with an @ sign it it’s name. Don’t want to post the name in your ama but: could you please go into some detail what the real difference there is between brain.fm and the other service from a science perspective?

brainfmCEO2 karma

Our pleasure- its not clear that the @ folks are using anything in particular other than just different genres of music. They also do questionable science and were shredded by the media as a result (Wired 2014). For example, their 4x claim comes from surveys given to people who were already their own power users(!) and so tells us nothing about effectiveness for a new user.

In contrast, Brain.fm was given government money to fund our research, and is based on using specific acoustic features and well-articulated principles from neuroscience and psychology. See this doc for details as to exactly what we do. --Kevin

Too-Far-Frame2 karma

Growing up with ADHD, I know just how easy it is to become distra- Squirrel!!!

The thought of anything else going on while I was trying to concentrate was just impossible. Some people can study while listening to music or even watching TV. Again, for me this is impossible.

How would music help? Sorry, honest question. It just to me, it would only distract from the task at hand.


brainfmCEO2 karma

The idea is that certain kinds of regular stimulation can help drown out distraction (think of a fidget spinner). Brain.fm is designed to sit in the background and drown out external distractions while giving a sense of energy. We remove the aspects of music that usual distract people, such as vocals, tinny instruments, tempo changes, etc., so that you remain focused on your task instead of actively listening to the music. --Kevin

TriaxialGoat1 karma

Do I need to be listening to have the effect? For example, I use my medication to get through work effectively, including interacting with customers, which means I won’t have the music playing at those times when I have customers. Is the effect meant for only while listening or will it continue if I stop listening for about 15-20 minutes at a time?

brainfmCEO3 karma

Great question- The effects of the music are intended to be active while the music is on. We haven’t yet studied effects in the minutes after listening stops, but the intention of Brain.fm is that its effects can be turned on and off with a button (unlike medication). Do you feel like there might be effects after the music is turned off? -- Kevin - Shoutout to AbundantObsidian for answering too!

Ho1idayArmadillo1 karma

Love your service...

but when will you push out an update for the iPhone X?

Any focus gained is immediately lost when I open the app and realize it’s the last app on my phone that needs to be updated and the one I’m paying the most to use!

brainfmCEO1 karma

Thanks a ton for the Brain.fm love! I’m using an iPhone X now so this personally bugs me too. Pushing an update for iPhone X is a short term priority for sure and is our next priority for our engineering team!

radgepack1 karma

Are you planning to expand over to europe, asia and australia as a company?

brainfmCEO1 karma

Hey there, yes we are. The cool thing about music is it translates across all languages. We are currently focusing on directing our attention to English speaking countries and then will be rolling out across the globe.