Researchers transform Parkinson’s tremors into music

Tremors vs Tremors
Tremors vs Tremors

A new music album based on the tremors of people with Parkinson’s has been launched by a team of UCL researchers, to help provide relief for people with the condition.

The Tremors vs Tremors project, in collaboration with creative agency Innocean Berlin and audio production company DaHouse, has created a series of bespoke songs based on the personal narratives, favourite genres and tremor recordings of five people with Parkinson’s.

More than 10 million people worldwide currently live with Parkinson’s, and this number is expected to double over the next 20 years.

The Tremors vs Tremors project focuses on the individual nature of Parkinson’s and how it affects each person differently. There are over 40 symptoms of the condition, many of which are invisible, such as anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and apathy. These all’have a big impact on an individual’s day-to-day life and can make the condition harder to treat.

In order to explore the condition’s intersection with music, mood and movement, the project team, led by Dr Christian Lambert (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), first interviewed the individuals affected by Parkinson’s. The interviews explored their experience living with the condition, the perception of their tremor and other invisible symptoms, their relationship with music and the musical genres they most enjoyed. He also recorded their tremors using devices called accelerometers during a standard assessment.

This raw tremor data was then sent to DaHouse, who transformed it into a musical element which was used to affect the instruments and melodies of the tracks. This resulted in each person’s tremor being embedded into the song’s core.

To ensure that each participant saw themselves in the song, DaHouse took inspiration from the interviews and based the lyrics on each person’s individual experience with Parkinson’s and the melody on their favourite music genre.

The five participants were then invited back to UCL, to listen to their bespoke song for the first time. The songs had a positive impact, with reactions as individual as their condition.

Kuhan, whose song was called "The Greatest Day", said: "I feel a physical change in my symptoms when I have an emotional reaction to things. And there’s nothing more emotional than music that’s based on me."

Clare, whose song "Starlight Keeper" is about acceptance, said: "It made me consciously let go of my hands, instead of holding my hand to stop my tremor."

She added: "I just want to share it with everybody. Listen to this. This is me, this is my tempo, this is my tremor."

Dr Lambert describes the importance of the project: "In managing Parkinson’s, it’s not all’about medications. There is a broad range of strategies and therapies available that can form part of a holistic approach to care that is tailored to the individual person. Our hope is that this project will inspire patients, people caring for people with Parkinson’s, and researchers to take some of this work further, to provide more ways to help understand, manage and treat the condition."

The aim of Tremors vs Tremors is to continue to raise awareness of the variability in Parkinson’s, while also highlighting the importance of a holistic approach to managing symptoms. The whole project is gathered on a dedicated , which tells each participant’s story and explains the process in more depth.

The Tremors vs Tremors album is available widely on all major music streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music, as well as limited edition vinyl records. All proceeds will go to Parkinson’s UK.

Paul Jackson-Clark, Director of Fundraising and Experience, Parkinson’s UK, said: "The Tremors vs Tremors project is an innovative way to express people’s experiences of Parkinson’s and we are incredibly appreciative that the royalties from the album will go to Parkinson’s UK."

The project will launch during Brain Awareness Week (11 -17 March 2024) and at an online event hosted by UCL in collaboration with Innocean, DaHouse and Parkinson’s UK on Thursday 14th March 2024 . You can sign up for a free place here.

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