A team of researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, aim to develop a sound system that could help to reduce levels of stress among intensive care unit (ICU) patients by playing soothing music.

According to a statement, University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts professor Michael Frishkopf is leading an interdisciplinary research team to develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven solution that will create customised music to induce relaxation and stimulate sleep.

The system will assess various physical attributes, such as heart rate, breathing and response from sweat glands, to determine calming sounds for individual patients.

Professor Frishkopf said that critically ill patients often suffer from high levels of stress and sleep deprivation, which can prolong their recovery.

Addressing these conditions with drugs often has limited effectiveness and can trigger serious side effects.

However, the use of sound therapy can be a viable alternative, as it is inexpensive and has no known side effects.

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Frishkopf said: “Research has shown them to be highly effective if customised to the patient.”

The audio library of the system will include preselected soundscapes comprising musical, natural and synthetic sounds. These sounds will be adjusted and mixed in real time to meet patient requirements.

Additionally, the system may use the patient’s demographic profile, including gender, age and birth place, to customise the selection.

So far, the team has mostly been testing the soundscapes on themselves. They hope to receive permission to work with subjects using the under-construction Sound3 Lab in the university soon.

The research has received funding from Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and the pilot seed grant programme from the University of Alberta’s Office of the Vice-President (Research and Innovation).