Pop songs might not be everyone’s taste. But could listening to the smooth sounds of artists like Justin Bieber be good for your health?

We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to the music we listen to – but could a bit of Justin Bieber be good for you?

The answer is yes, according to the work of PhD researcher Jessica Sharmin Rahman, who is based in the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

She says while we’re surrounded by music every day, we don’t know much about its impact on our body. Inspired by Bieber himself, she decided to dig a bit deeper.

“I’m not a Bieber fan – but it turns out my brain is!” Ms Sharmin Rahman says.

“When I heard his 2015 song Love Yourself I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t hate it – in fact, it gave me chills.

“Then I realised this type of reaction is actually surprisingly common. I decided to deep dive into the impact music has on our brain—with the help of artificial intelligence.”

As part of her research, Ms Sharmin Rahman asks people to listen to music while wearing a watch and headset to record physiological signals – for example, sweat glands on the skin, heart rate and brain waves.

“Using this data, I’ve built an AI system that learns from participants’ physiological responses as they listen to music. The system then predicts the emotions they are feeling, almost better than they can,” Ms Sharmin Rahman says.

“Ninety-six per cent of the time my system knows what genre of music they’re listening to and how it makes them feel.”

PhD researcher Jessica Sharmin Rahman. Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

Ms Sharmin Rahman hopes her work will help improve people’s mental health.

“The chills and tingles we get while listening to music have an effect on our neurological activity,” she says.

“Devices such as smartwatches could learn your responses and suggest music to improve your emotional wellbeing – and songs to avoid. Imagine listening to Spotify for your health!”

Ms Sharmin Rahman was the People’s Choice winner in the 2020 ANU Three Minute Thesis competition.

Watch her presentation at ANU TV on YouTube.

You may also like

Article Card Image

Glacial glossary: words from the polar regions

What words and phrases are used to describe the polar regions? Here's a cool collection.

Article Card Image

What’s in a name? Why the words we use for family members tell a much bigger story

The language we use to describe our family members can tell us a lot about our society and its values, according to ANU expert Sam Passmore.

Article Card Image

Why do we love Eurovision?

The international song contest has a devoted following in Australia, but do we really belong?

Subscribe to ANU Reporter

Anu Logo

+61 2 6125 5111

The Australian National University, Canberra

CRICOS Provider: 00120C

ABN: 52 234 063 906

EDX Logo
Group of eight Australia Logo