- Lloyd Price
Wavepaths: merging science, psychotherapy and technology
Mental health is one of today’s most pressing problems, and the global Covid-19 crisis has only exacerbated it. Only time will tell whether Covid-19 or the mental health crisis will have been more destructive in terms of human health. At the same time, the pandemic has also highlighted the fact that, in addition to tried-and-true methods, a radically new approach and new tools are needed to address mental health issues. Especially considering that in the past seventy years there has been relatively little innovation in the field of mental health treatment and that the efficacy of psychiatric treatment for depression has not improved.
The Wavepaths project, which merges science and psychotherapy as well as technology and art to harness the transformative power of experience, is rooted in science and technological know-how and is an approach that has the potential to become one such tool of the future. The founder and CEO of Wavepaths is neuroscientist Mendel Kaelen. During his PhD and post-doctoral work in the use of psychedelic drugs as a treatment for depression, addiction and trauma, Kaelen discovered the importance of music in predicting positive therapeutic outcomes. He was inspired to found Wavepaths while he was a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London.
Currently, Wavepaths focuses on two different directions. One of these directions is to provide music experiences for and as psychedelic therapy, which is in large part influenced by the so-called “renaissance” of clinical research on psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine as safe and effective treatments for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), tobacco addiction, alcohol addiction and end-of-life anxiety* as well as the start of decriminalisation processes around the world regarding a number of psychedelic substances. The other direction is “music as medicine” without the presence of psychoactive substances. Kaelen is convinced that transformative experiences are also possible only with the help of sound, with music becoming a kind of equivalent to a “psychedelic journey”.
A key component of Wavepaths’ offering is its adaptive AI music-generation technology. The technology is developed to dynamically generate music according to empirically distinct therapeutic categories and individual music preferences and needs. Wavepaths works with experience designers, musicians (including Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, Robert Rich and Greg Haines) and experts in the fields of psychotherapy and neuroscience to create therapeutic music experiences for users that are aimed at improving their wellbeing.
Although the Wavepaths platform is already available for therapeutic and individual use, it is in fact still in the testing stage. As Kaelen says in our conversation: “This year, we’ll see a lot of change. We’ve developed a very elaborate tool for care providers that’s currently being beta tested extensively by hundreds of patients per week, and our website will offer various ways to access this technology over the coming months. Although it’s more simple, the musical experience available on the website (which is different from our elaborate therapeutic tool), is constantly evolving in terms of musical diversity and adaptation as well. Music-wise there are updates on a weekly basis and this is available for everyone right now to experience.”