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Meditation can change your mind, literally

It was one of those things that in retrospect seemed like a no-brainer (pun intended): neuroscientists studying Tibetan monks discovered that thousands of hours of serious meditation can physically change how your brain works. Even though that was their hypothesis going into the study, they never suspected how dramatic the differences would be; according to a new article in the Wall Street Journal, the monks' brains showed huge increases in gamma wave activity "of a sort that has never been reported before in the neuroscience literature." That's compared to only a slight increase in gamma waves -- essentially high-frequency brain activity -- in novice monks with a lot less meditation under their belts (or robes, rather). Even more interesting, the type of meditation they practice also had a profound effect on their brains. The Tibetan Buddhists they studied, including the Dalai Lama himself, practice "compassion meditation," designed to generate feelings of loving kindness toward all beings in the practitioner.

Using the brain scan called functional magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists pinpointed regions that were active during compassion meditation. In almost every case, the enhanced activity was greater in the monks' brains than the novices'. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions such as happiness) swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity. A sprawling circuit that switches on at the sight of suffering also showed greater activity in the monks. So did regions responsible for planned movement, as if the monks' brains were itching to go to the aid of those in distress.

Now, I don't meditate or do yoga or practice special breathing or bathe in organic yogurt, but I must say -- it's pretty cool to think that you can bring yourself to a higher state of consciousness by an act of will; by simply thinking.

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New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists
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Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

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