Created by The Future Laboratory and designed by Campaign in 2014, Selfridges ‘Fragrance Lab’ “offers a personalised journey to a fragrance that represents your character” (Matthew Brown for Echo Chamber) The pop-up concept held at Selfridges London Oxford Street store put on a unique, innovative, and most importantly, completely personal retail experience. The experiences existed in different stages whereby the choice of scent given to consumers was dependant on how they behaved at each stage. The experience itself its completely immersive and full of creativity, by firstly being greeted by staff dressed in lab coats at a clinical check-in desk. The aesthetic of the experience and the layout of the space fully embodied the concept of the idea. Providing a completely sensory experience with customers being provided with an iPad to fill in questionnaires as well as an iPhone with headphones to be led by voiceover into the different rooms within the space. Completely interactive, each room offered a different sensory experience for the customers, being “invited to touch, sniff and interact”. When customers reach the end of the experience, they are given smells from different vials containing variations of their signature fragrance based upon the information they provided throughout. “The end result is a personal ‘prescription’ detailing their character and the key ingredients in their selected perfume.” There was also the option to complete this process in a much quicker and free way. After completing the questionnaire on the provided iPad you are then given a fragrance number where a member of staff then explains your personality and customers can try samples. Having this type of immersive, creative, and sensory experience available for members of the public in a high-street retailers is such a brilliant concept and the execution was just stunning. Curating a fully personalised experience, asking “what scents remind you of home?” and “can you bottle a memory?” brought a special quality to the experience that really hone in on the importance of individuality and identity that are so important. And with that combined with the amalgamation of the scientific and creative elements in terms of concept and visual aesthetic make to create an overall innovative space, transforming a store of consumer goods into a fully realised personal experience. I am very interested in looking at other forms of personalised experiences, as this pop-up very much reminds me of the documentary I watched previously, Alive Inside whereby a social worker created personalised playlists for Alzheimer’s patients to listen to that triggered their memories to return to them, thus giving them their live and identity back to them for a while. The use of creative outlets in order to break ground in the area of memory cannot continue to be overlooked as there are so many beautiful achievements made in the creative sphere that paired with scientific research and experimentation can lead to a future solution.
With the primary objective of the research of this academic journal being to “test validity of newly designed gamified cognitive-perceptual-motor assessments with individuals who report residual symptoms of acquired brain injury related to attention, memory, processing speed or executive functions,” supports my previous research on memory games and how exercising the brain in this way works to increase cognitive thinking. Their findings of the study concluded that “demonstrated strong potential for valid construct measurement, clinical utility, useracceptance and value to a time pressured healthcare system through substantial savings in clinician time and effort,” meaning that the concept of gamification stands to yield great results in stimulating the increase in cognitive thinking in people affected with diseases linked to memory and brain deterioration, resulting in better care for patients. Continued research and development and expansion in resources for diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s are vital to not only have the possibility of approving their cognitive abilities once the disease takes effect, but to lead to further understanding of the mind to ultimately reach a solution for a cure.
The concept of gamification, more commonly referred to as memory games, are a simple yet effective tool used to stimulate the brain. Brain training exercises are used for people of all ages to keep our mind’s sharp and engaged but with individuals who suffer with brain degenerative diseases, it is an excellent way to provide both mental and social stimulation. Caregiver Support’s website list five types of games that are especially well suited for dementia patients. These are; card games, bingo, visual games, word puzzles and video games. Utilising this form of therapy, possibly slows down the deterioration of cognitive abilities, thus making them an exemplary tool for carers and loved ones to do with dementia patients in order to exercise their brains again to trigger the memory aspects that are fading away.
Identity is the most important element when it comes to memory. In memory affected conditions, the sense of self and identity is completely stripped away, leaving the individual a shell of who they once were. Something that I heavily researched for my first idea in this brief is the connection between dress and identity and this is something that also applies in this area of research. With the way we dress being such a strong display of self-expression and is so strongly tied to our sense of self, it makes the simple concept of dress essential for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. “Clothes lie at the interface between the body and its social presentation. They signify to the wider world who and what the person is; and in doing so have the capacity to act back on that individual endorsing their sense of identity at a directly embodied level. They can thus play a significant part in the maintenance, or otherwise, of embodied personhood.” While dress can become “a site of struggle, as people with advanced dementia resist daily routines of dressing and undressing, or undress in inappropriate situations”, it can also be “particularly significant for relatives and family carers, maintaining continuity with the embodied biography of the person they love and knew”. This means that clothing, and the connection it holds to one’s identity, has a huge impact in terms of not only illustrating the mind discarding what we consider ‘normal’ daily activities, but also on preserving the memory of the person as the changes in dress act as visual markers for the deterioration of the disease which evokes feelings despair and sadness.
This academic journal highlights the importance of colour in cognitive thinking and the concept of using colour to “enhance memory performance”. With memory comes the ability to both remember and store information that makes us who we are as individuals, providing us to retain our identity. The way in colours can be used in order to enhance both attention and evoke emotions within the individual is a strong force that works to build and strengthen our memory. “Colour helps us in memorizing certain information by increasing our attentional level. The role played by colour in enhancing our attention level is undisputable. The more attention focused on certain stimuli, the more chances of the stimuli to be transferred to a more permanent memory storage.” This statement means that colours stimulate our attention and the strong ties they share with a memory means that our capacity to retain them is greater. Colour associations are also highly important when it comes to memories as “the choice of colours and the manipulative aspects can, however, influence the extent to which colours can influence human memory performance”. I think it would be very interesting to see how people perceive colour in relation to their memories, and whether there is a specific colour has a higher association and connection with our most treasured memories than others.
After researching into the creative theory of music therapy to stimulate the retrieval of memories in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, I wanted to explore further in the creative sphere as I feel that this, in combination with advances in science and technology, will be the key to unlocking a cure for these destructive diseases. This is how I came to focus on the importance of colour connotations and the idea of the kinds of colours we associate with specific memories. This aspect of memory is fascinating in the sense that for every person it’s different. Our mind associates a memory with a song or a colour or a location and that connection is so strong that it triggers us to remember – it’s incredible. For dementia patients, colour is so important. How we perceive colours is one thing, and is something that, again, varies person-to-person, and the connotations that colours hold is also subjective. However, there is a general guide for how we tend to view each colour. Using colour to improve the environment surrounding dementia patients is not the only use of colour. Colour is also said to enhance the person’s likeliness to evoke a strong emotion and has an impact on their mood. Red and yellow are colours of stimulation and are “used in activity areas to stimulate brain wave activity”, whereas blue and green “reduce activity in the central nervous system”, thus making people feel calmer. Orange, share similar connotations with that of red and yellow but is ultimately viewed as an “earthy colour so is often used in natural environments”. The fact that colour is such a predominant element, not only in the surroundings of dementia sufferers but they also hold such power in terms of emotional connections, making them essential to stimulation of memory.
The ties that bind music and memory together are so powerful that the emotive outcome that is evoked proves that this complex connection is so deep-rooted in the mind that it is hard for external forces to completely eradicate for good. This academic journal shows how “current research struggles with finding appropriate approaches to investigate music-evoked memories” and that a new method that’s been introduced is “the use of self-selected rather than experimenter-selected music”. This theory supports all of the prior research I have done into the concept of music memory and the documentary ‘Alive Inside’ fully realises this theory and illustrates the success of this theory beautifully, as it is the personalisation element that connects to the very core the individual as it connects so strongly with their identity and sense of self. The conclusion that the researchers came to in this instance is that, “music that evokes sad memories is more like to portray sad than happy emotions. It was additionally found that familiarity of self-selected music is linked to liking, aesthetic value, meaningfulness, intensity of emotional response, vividness of mental imagery, and detail of the memory.” Emotions, music, and memory are all bound together to forge such a powerful force that can penetrate any void, allowing the individuals suffering with conditions surrounding memory loss, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, to connect with who they used to be again. Music essentially opens a portal into their minds, granting them back access to their memories that they had once lost, forgotten, having such an intense impact on the individuals, as they evoke such strong emotional responses.
In Nicholas Cassavetes’ ‘The Notebook’, the story moves between the same couple – Noah and Allie – in the opening and closing acts of their love story. From their urgent and passionate love affair in the 1940s to the present-day nursing home, where Allie is disappearing into the shadowy recesses of Alzheimer’s. Everyday, Noah reads to Allie from a notebook the story of how they met and fell in love in the hopes that, even just for a few minutes, she will remember and return to him again. Sometimes, she does. It’s not just words, but music that propels Allie into the present again. Back in the 40s, when the two run off to an abandoned house to have sex for the first time, Allie plays Chopsticks on the piano. In the present, when she sits down to play that same song, her memories come flooding back once again: a moving demonstration of the powerful relationship that exists between music and memory.
The concept of musical memory is staggering and so interesting. After watching this talk, I found myself trying to recall the memories that appear the most vivid and with the most clarity in my mind and almost all of them include incredibly strong musical elements that create powerful emotional connections. The connection that is rooted deep within a memory through the special and wonderfully weird bond that is formed between music and emotions is something that I, as well as many other, believe to be one of the most powerful effects on our personality and identity.
Music can affect us in extreme ways. It has the power to evoke pure joy, devastating pain, exhilarating energy, and provoke pure thought. Music takes you back. It magnifies the mind’s ability to time travel back in time and sometimes even propel forward to a vision of a potential future you see for yourself. This aspect of the relationship between music and memory is one of the things I love most about when I think about music, it enables me to remember my memories with such greater clarity and the association between a specific song and a memory can be something really beautiful. And it’s just for you, unless you choose to share it, making it a truly personal experience, tightly tying it to your sense of self.
The power that music stands to flow through our minds, thus constantly triggering our subconscious to remember memories is mind-blowing and ultimately unexplainable. There is no scientific reason that can be given as to why music sits so deep within our memories, which is when the creative side of the brain takes over, as we start to form our own personal rationalisations for this truly amazing phenomenon.
Social worker Dan Cohen is a truly wonderful human being. This beautifully emotive documentary follows Cohen’s ground-breaking quest to bring people who suffer with Alzheimer’s, back to life. How does he achieve this? Music therapy. Cohen travels to nursing homes across America where he discovers the music that the person used to listen to in their youth and makes them, simply creates a personalised playlist, downloads it onto an iPod, plugs in headphone, puts them on the patient and the result is this: magic. You see people who were previously in a catatonic state unable to recall any single part of their lives yet they hear that music and they are instantly taken back, transported to a time in their youth where the memories and connections are so strong – the music gives them the gift of remembering. Almost instantly, they are dancing, singing along to the lyrics of the song and not only that, but they are suddenly able to recall dates, friend’s names, the places they visited, tell stories full of amazing detail whereas seconds before they couldn’t have recognised a picture of their younger selves if you showed it to them. Cohen correctly states that “music connects people with who they have been and who they have been and who they are in their lives. It’s what happens when you get old, is all the things you deal with and your identity is being peeled away.” With one man, Henry, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, what unfolded he second he first that first second of music was just astounding. His eyes went wide, like he was waking up, alive again and then he could remember. Henry reacquired his identity for a while through the power of music and as Cohen beautifully says, “We connected with Henry. We connected with Henry’s self. All of a sudden everything falls into place. You’re right there with the music. It’s pleasurable. You’re not thinking about anything else, you’re not struggling.” This incredible display of escapism moved me to tears, witnessing all the people’s reactions when their self’s returns to them is just remarkable and an example of just pure creative thinking. The music enables the person to escape from the disease that has shackled their mind and viciously ripped their memories and their identity from them and the music opens a back door to the mind, where suddenly remembering becomes possible again and that is simply beautiful. Millions all around lose their connection to life, suffering with illnesses that rob the infected of their memories and Cohen gives their lives back to them for a short while – “I mean isn’t this desire, a desire to awaken another person to what they are, to what they could be, a deep part of being human?” This statement from Cohen really affected me. Therapy of this nature should be practised globally, why wouldn’t we want to give back what little life we can to those who have lost so much? With the government refuses to fund Cohen’s intentions to provide this music therapy to the 12,000 nursing home in America, he decided he would do it himself and started reaching out to anyone and everyone he could think could help. After the director of this documentary released the clip of Henry listening to the music and the reaction it gets from him, it spread like wildfire, receiving millions of views on YouTube, and with that gaining so much support for Cohen’s cause. This proves that music possesses the power to achieve amazing things within the mind, and where the idea of self-expression and experiencing joy again were deemed almost impossible, music makes it a reality. This music therapy causes stimulation and communication and awakens the spirit of the individual in such a way that you just become in awe of them. It’s amazing what the mind is capable of music is introduced and that wonderful connection is established. “We need music. It awakens in us our most profound safety. The safety of living in concert with each other and our own selves.” A woman called Marylou, who had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s says, “It can’t get away from me if I’m in this place.”, thus showing that the strong sense of security that the music brings them as they are reminded of their life is so comforting and the emotion it pulls from all the people who experience this is just profound. Cohen closes the telling of this captivating story with the most heart-warming words, “We’re gonna bring life into the places where it’s been forgotten and together we will listen.” Awareness for these diseases and these creative forms of therapy that are so simple but have life altering effects essential for allowing these those suffering to live again.