A new ketamine trial for major depression studies musical programming as part of therapy

Medically reviewed by 
Mindbloom Review Board
Published on 
August 3, 2022
Updated on 

A new clinical trial that looks at the effects of ketamine on major depressive disorder (MDD) will take an approach that’s more tuneful than other traditional methods: the addition of music catered specifically to psychedelic experiences.

Vancouver-based biotech firm Entheon Biomedical Corp. has partnered with UK-based Wavepaths to launch an observational study which tracks the neurological effects of ketamine combined with Wavepath’s targeted music programming on patients with MDD. 

Wavepath was founded by neurologist and musician Dr. Mendel Kaelen. The company works with musicians to curate scores that not only pair with psychedelic therapy, but can be the focus of a treatment session as welli. 

Kaelen told Forbes that he was inspired to start the music-based company as a result of his research. He came to realize that music plays an undeniably important role in psychedelic therapy.

“We learned that music in these settings is not just background music… it plays an active therapeutic role,” he told the outlet.

The adaptive music technology, which is powered by creative AI, is able to respond to a patient’s emotional state during their therapeutic session, according to the Dale Report.

The study will examine the electroencephalography (EEG) pattern of study participants, who will receive the ketamine intramuscularly for treatment-resistant MDD. For their part, Wavepaths will monitor how changes in musical structure, like depth and intensity, harmonize - so to speak - with EGG-measured activity in the brain as the drug is being administered. 

A questionnaire developed by Wavepaths will also be part of the study, which the company hopes will allow it to optimize its music system in order to generate desired brain shifts in patients who are being treated with ketamine for depression.

"In addition to supporting the study itself, Wavepaths hopes that the results will demonstrate how Wavepaths' adaptive music platform can be used to support psychedelic therapy within a clinical trial setting,'' Kaelen said in a release. "Because Wavepaths can be used to achieve specific emotional states and levels of intensity, it allows for variation across sessions while retaining reliability."

The first doses of the new trial were administered at an Austin, Texas clinic in late February.

Integrating music into psychedelic therapy sessions is a new practice that’s becoming increasingly popular in the research sector. Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research has a mostly classical musical playlist, which is used to open up raised levels of consciousness for those taking part in certain studies. The musical playlist is tailored to cater to specific parts of the psychedelic exploration. 

Mindbloom also incorporates musical elements to help ease patients during their guided journey. Click here to learn more.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Important FDA Safety Information

Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.

Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).

Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:

  • Allergic to ketamine
  • Symptoms of psychosis or mania
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • CHF or other serious heart problem
  • Severe breathing problem
  • History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
  • History of hyperthyroidism
  • Other serious medical illness
  • Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant

Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.

While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.

  • In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
  • Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
  • Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom® clinician before proceeding with treatment.
  • The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.

To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:

  • Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
  • Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
  • Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
  • Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
  • Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
  • Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety

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