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Now, the ringtone cure for a hangover

AN army of young Japanese are being drawn to the allure of "therapeutic ringtones" -- a new genre of melodies that promises to ease a range of day-to-day gripes, from chronic insomnia to a rotten hangover.

Japan is no stranger to bizarre phone fads but the popularity of the ringtones is perhaps surprising given the flimsiness of the science behind them.

Much of the tones' credibility rests in the solid reputation of Matsumi Suzuki, the head of the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory, an eight-year-old subsidiary of the Japan Acoustic Laboratory.

Mr Suzuki's adventures in the realm of mood-altering ringtones follow a career at the National Research Institute of Police Science, where he made award-winning advances in the field of voiceprints.

A spokesman for Index, the giant Japanese mobile phone content provider that sells Mr Suzuki's ringtones, explained that "the number of downloads suggests the ringtones must be working to a certain extent".

One therapeutic tone, a high-energy rhythm, is supposed to provide a sudden burst of impetus to sluggardly housewives, while a tone that is said to improve skin mixes a burst of electro-Schubert with woodland noises, such as birdsong and streams.

Testers were marginally more impressed by the sleep-inducing and sleep-preventing tones, suspiciously akin to a lullaby and a dance track. The one with most practical use, they concluded, was the tone that scares away the crows which terrorise the dawn streets of Tokyo by pecking at bags of rubbish.

The popular hangover chaser ringtone works through what Index described as a careful selection of "pulse-melodies" chosen for their astonishing atunement to the body's "medical rhythms". Testers concluded that a fried breakfast, though less portable, still had the edge.