Depaws, 22, is a dancer, not a pianist. Nor is she a composer; but her mind is filled with soundless, endless melodies that move her. She cant sing or hum the tunes going through her head.
She never even heard them until undergoing a novel treatment for stress and insomnia called "brain music therapy."
In one brief session, Dr. Galina Mindlin, a New York psychiatrist, recorded Depaws brain waves and converted them to mood-altering musical notes, which were later transferred to a CD.
The idea is that the music so complements Depaws basic mental state that she can listen to the CD to calm her down when she is anxious or to get her going when she needs energizing.
Neither New Age nor white noise, brain music therapy is similar to biofeedback but quicker and "more complex," said Mindlin, who has treated 300 patients with the technique.
"Brain music therapy works right away. For biofeedback, you need to come to the office for a series of EEGs. That requires a lot of sessions," she explained recently during a break between patients at her Madison Avenue office.
An electroencephalogram, or EEG, records the brains electrical activity on a graph and is often used to detect a tumor or diagnose epilepsy. EEG biofeedback is a technique people learn to help control involuntary processes such as heartbeat and blood pressure.
Brain music evaluation and recording is brief, but the patient must use it on a regular basis to reap any subliminal therapeutic value, Mindlin said.
"You must be consistent; treat it like medicine," she said.
Brain music, in fact, can be used in combination with more serious medicine, such as psychotropic drugs, for patients being treated for bipolar disorders, Mindlin said.
The therapy can help autistic children become calmer and sleep better, she said.
"People who feel restless can use the relaxation file (part of the CD) to give an emotional down," she said. For patients already feeling too far down, "they can use the activation file" on the CD to bring them up.
Brain music therapy was developed in 1991 by a physician at the Moscow Medical Academy. Mindlin, 46, was born and trained in Russia. Besides her private practice, she teaches at Columbia University and is supervising attending physician in psychiatry at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital at Columbia.
Though software exists to make brain waves sound like any number of 120 different instruments, Mindlin programs them like a piano.
Depaws, who lives in Fair Lawn and teaches performing arts in Hawthorne, uses both the relaxation and activation files on her brain music therapy CD.
The piano for relaxing is slower, melancholy minor-key meandering single notes and simple chords.
"Its very tricky to get used to," Depaws said of this more soothing song of herself. "It doesnt kick back to something you recognize."
"I listen to it twice before going to bed. It doesnt put me to sleep, but it relaxes me, settles my mind. Im not thinking about what I did during the day."
Her activation music is an up-tempo, major key melody that dances around the first and fifth notes of the scale. She plays it in the morning as a wake-up call.
"Its a little perkier, more upbeat," Depaws said.
Depaws, who teaches pre-schoolers through eighth-graders, was having difficulty sleeping through the night. She saw Mindlin on TV and thought brain music would help.
"I wasnt getting restful sleep. Id wake up just as tired. I was not functioning well during the day. My posture was going bad. I had tired headaches," she said.
During a 15-minute consultation, Mindlin attached electrodes to Depaws scalp for an EEG. As Depaws sat and thought restful thoughts of floating quietly in a pool, her brain waves showed up in spiky lines on Mindlins laptop. A $350 fee covers the session, and the CD containing "personalized" relaxation and activation files is delivered about four weeks later.
Mindlin cites a double blind study that concluded brain music is effective; but some other therapists want more proof.
"I think its fascinating stuff, but its probably more in the research realm," said Al Bumanis, a guitarist and spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association.
Psychologists have studied brain wave-generated music the past couple of decades, Bumanis said in a phone interview from Silver Spring, Md. "I dont think its being used a lot in clinical music therapy. Its on the experimental side. But I cant dismiss it out of hand."
In traditional music therapy, the clinician helps the client make music to treat a health problem, such as speech or motion impairment from a stroke, or to aid special-education students learn the alphabet, said Bumanis, whose organization represents 5,000 certified professional music therapists.
Dr. Jan Mohlman, a psychology professor at Rutgers University, wants to see more data on the long-term effectiveness of brain music. Mohlman, who specializes in treating depression, anxiety and stress, thinks it needs to be tested against other types of cognitive behavioral therapy and even other types of music, for that matter to assess its merit.
"So far, it looks like the best way to overcome anxiety is to confront feared situations gradually and repeatedly," Mohlman said. "We are certainly in need of additional treatment strategies. However, only research can tell us if this particular intervention is effective."
But Depaws is sold on the treatment, which, she said, helps relieve her stress and sinus headaches. She swears her brain music also makes her worry less when her fiance makes global business trips and cope better with her own job.
"Im more rational. I think about certain situations at work, and I wonder, why am I not freaking out? Why arent I ripping out the phone?
"Im able to dial down my nastiness. Sometimes Id lose my temper,
but now Id be able to take a breath."
© 2005, North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.