Aaron Labbé was studying music at a prestigious conservatory in upstate New York when he had his first mental breakdown. Now he’s using music’s healing properties to help others in challenging situations.

Lucid, the company he co-founded out of his thesis project while at Toronto Metropolitan University, secured more than $3 million in venture funding this summer to expand its team and advance its effort to help those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Aiming to use music as medicine, the company uses a digital therapeutics platform to create and deliver playlists designed to help alleviate stress, focus the mind or achieve other cognitive tasks via 20- to 30-minute listening experiences that patients might engage with daily.

“Ultimately, I'm trying to build alternatives and a higher standard of care and good quality of life for people who are dealing with mental and neuropsychiatric health,” the 31-year-old said. “And for me, the instrument for that is music.”

The algorithm Lucid has built can react to the biometric and psychometric responses of patients to offer personalized, AI-curated playlists to help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, burnout and other neurocognitive conditions.

Music therapy has long been known to have positive effects on people living with Alzheimer’s as well as those with cardiac conditions, depression, autism and substance abuse.

Labbé says his expanding team hopes the digital delivery of similar benefits could make it a more “accessible and empathetic and ideally non-chemical remedy to support the symptoms that people like myself live through,” he said.

Currently a team of 14, they expect to double in number in the next 18 to 24 months with new hires in business development, research and engineering.

Aaron Labbé sits inside the lighted tent that was Lucid's prototype, an art installation for his thesis project at Toronto Metropolitan University, which invited participants to engage with the company's core technology. Photo supplied by Aaron Labbé

Over 747,000 Canadians — and 44 million people worldwide — are living with Alzheimer's, a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, or another form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

The co-founder of Lucid was left wanting when he suffered a mental health crisis while studying music at university. Now he’s got a team building a digital therapeutic company around its healing properties.

This makes it an obvious initial target of Lucid’s clinical tests and prototypes, but the company aims to apply the technology it is developing to mood, movement and speech disorders as well as stroke recovery.

“It's looking at the data, looking at the music, finding very interesting patterns,” said Zachary McMahon, another co-founder and Lucid’s chief executive officer. “The human mind is very, very complex and music is very complex.”

Earlier this year, the company had results from a peer-reviewed clinical trial published showing that music stimulation reduced acute clinical anxiety among adults.

They plan to use the influx of funds — their first financing round beyond angel investors — to make bigger strides in developing their clinical prototype into a digital therapeutic to reduce agitation and anxiety in dementia care.

The all-equity round of investment was led by Amplify Capital and involved Relentless Venture Fund, the Pan-Canadian consortium MEDTEQ+, the Ontario Centre of Innovation’s Market Readiness Co-Investment Fund, Reverb Ventures, the Hunter Family Foundation and Leva Capital.

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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