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Student Reflection: Using EEG to measure the effects of improvisational group music therapy on stress and anxiety: an exploration of feasibility

Uncategorized Sep 02, 2020

McMaster University HTH SCI 4A15- Thesis: Post-Project Reflection Project: Using EEG to measure the effects of improvisational group music therapy on stress and anxiety: an exploration of feasibility

Submitted by: Daniel Friedberg
Supervisors: Annilee Baron, Rachael Finnerty

     One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned during my time in post-secondary education is that work is not about the end goal, it is about the process towards the end goal. As I worked through the stages and components of this thesis project, I was reminded of this again and again as I gained a number of valuable lessons, the most important of which I’ve described below.

       In order to give context and a proper knowledge base going into the research of my literature review, my first task was to learn about brainwaves- what are they, how do they come about, and what is their purpose? I did not anticipate just how difficult some of these questions would be to answer. I learned that the way single action potentials of numerous neurons are summated in a synchronized fashion is an indefinitely complex process, one that becomes even more complex when the voltage summations of multiple brain regions and incoming sensory stimuli are required to communicate with each other. The process of trying to understand these principles taught me how important it is to stick to what I know is correct when trying to understand a difficult concept, and to acknowledge that it is impossible to understand everything about something as labyrinthine as intracerebral brainwave interactions.

        After learning what I could about the biophysiological mechanics of brainwaves, I moved on to the data collection component of my literature review. I was investigating how EEG is used in the measurement of stress and anxiety, which is also a complex topic. As I went through more and more papers, it became harder not to get lost in the detail of each paper’s methodology and findings. I learned that less is more when it comes to working efficiently; sifting through and collecting less detail amounted to covering more papers and ultimately making more progress in the data collection. This process also strengthened my ability to remain goal-oriented and on track.

       Following the data collection, I began my write up of the literature review itself. I actually enjoy writing very much; as a result, I found myself trying to write too much in one sitting and losing the mental sharpness required to piece together various pieces of complex information into logical, convincing arguments. From this, I learned that it is important to pace yourself using breaks and to approach tasks from multiple perspectives instead of tirelessly persisting with one method. A fresh mind goes a long way in crafting well-structured arguments and formulating strong insights. The writing process also included a secondary stage of data collection as there were certain questions and gaps in my information base that need answering in order to reach conclusions in my review. As I endeavoured back into the literature and found more and more information about the original concepts that I researched, I learned that there is always more to learn about a given concept and that you did a fine job at learning if you left with more questions than you started with.

         The last and final stage of the project was the creation of a poster to present the findings of my review. Initially I went through my review and highlighted the most important parts, then simply pasted them onto the designated sections in my poster and turned them into bullet points. My poster was completely overpopulated with text, and once again I was reminded that less is more. However, the most significant lesson I learned from creating and refining my poster came from cutting down the text. Doing this forced me to see the project from the perspective of someone who had no knowledge of my work up to that point, as a poster is meant to be a tool that conveys- in a short amount of time- what you did and what you learned. Doing so taught me to be unassuming of others’ knowledge and to recognize that what may be obvious to me cannot be taken for granted for others. These things are important to keep in mind in order to effectively explain a given process or concept. All in all, the time and effort I poured into this project not only added fascinating facts to my knowledge base, but also taught me numerous invaluable lessons. I look forward to taking these lessons along with me and applying them in all areas of my life in the future.

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