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Doctors develop music-making app to help cancer patients reduce brain fog

The app is being trialled as part of a new music therapy which aims to improve patients’ cognitive function

A music-making app has been developed by doctors to help reduce the experience of brain fog in cancer patients. 

The app, ARMcan (Active Receptive Music for Cancer), has been put together by a team of doctors from the University of Cincinnati. As well as streaming their favourite songs, users can create their own music. Both activities have been found to improve concentration and cognitive ability. 

Speaking with WFMZ-TV, Dr. Soma Sengupta, a neuro-oncologist behind the project, said, “I wanted an app that could allow patients to express their musical ability. In other words, to have musical turns where you could overlay genres and create your own music track.”

Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy often experience brain fog, which can lead to problems with memory, multitasking and maintaining concentration. Because there are no medical treatments to reduce these side effects, completing simple tasks can become a problem. It is thought that with regular use, the app will lessen the symptoms of brain fog. 

As part of the innovative virtual music therapy, patients will be assigned to a group that either listens to music or creates it, and will then do that activity for 15 minutes every day. As Sengupta explains, “these technologies are sort of, in a way, helping the rewiring and exercising areas of the brain that normally wouldn't do it.” 

Researchers have begun trials with breast cancer survivors who have reported experiencing brain fog. Using regular surveys and MRI scans, they will evaluate the effect the music therapy has on patients’ brain function.

This isn’t the first time music has been found to have a positive effect on our health. Last year, two studies found that choir-based music therapy can help reduce symptoms of depression in people with dementia. It’s also been found that making music is good for our mental health.