CNS 2017

I just got back from my sixth CNS meeting. Hard to believe I've been doing this that long. This was the second year I've been President of the CNS Trainee Association  and I think it's safe to say our trainee events were a huge success. Much thanks to VP Tony Cunningham for all his work on making these events possible!

Our panel this year consisted of David Poeppel, Sharon Thompson-Schill, Elizabeth Kensinger, and Kia Nobre. They were awesome. To see some of their insights, check out the Storify of live tweets here

After the panel we had our social at Monroe Lounge. Huge thanks to Sarah Kark for finding this awesome venue. We had the whole bar rented out which was pretty awesome. Such a great time. 

As for science-stuff, the Poeppel lab was repping hard. JR King gave an impressive talk with possibly the best slides of all time, and Suzanne Dikker gave a talk on her awesome work on neuroscience+art+education. I feel pretty lucky to work with such cool people.

I gave a poster on my paintings + fMRI study, see below. Am hoping to start writing this one up in the coming months! In general, the most interesting finding seems to be that at the image onset, we see more activity for liked vs. disliked images in the DMN. This nicely replicates previous work (e.g., Vessel et al., 2012). However, in the longer trials, after image offset we see a reversal in this order, such that there is more activity for less preferred trials in the DMN. 

As always, comments, questions, suggestions on the poster are welcome! 

Overall, it was an excellent CNS meeting, as usual. Hoping to make it to #cns2018 in Boston next year for the 25th anniversary! 

Spotify and "The Power of Audio"

A couple months I was interviewed as an expert on the 'power of audio' for Spotify. The Power of Audio is a new campaign Spotify is running that focuses on audio as a central component of our lives. They interviewed many individuals from various fields to all talk about how they use audio in their lives, and what audio means to them. You can check out the first video of the series here, on musical 'moments.' The second chapter was just released , and focuses on 'the impact,' or how advertisers can best harness the power of audio. 

To go along with this project, I also was invited to speak at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Audio Day at the WNYC Greene Space last week. This was a fun experience for me and a totally different audience than I'm used to speaking with. See a video of the talk here. One thing I found interesting about the Audio Day was the fact that only recently are people starting to promote the value of audio in advertising. Like, people need to be convinced that audio is useful, which is surprising. It reminded me of a few weeks ago as I was preparing my sensation and perception lectures for the intro psych course I'm teaching - I looked at a handful of syllabi from previous intro classes, and most of them spend most, if not all, of the sensation and perception time on vision. This is reflected in the textbooks as well. I mean, we obviously know a lot more about vision, but I still think auditory perception should at least get a mention in an intro psych class. So I guess maybe I am the right person to be an evangelist for the power of audio. 

Overall, this experience has been an excellent way to directly see the implications of how my research can speak to issues like consumer behavior. To be honest this is something I hadn't really thought about before meeting the folks from Spotify. But it soon became obvious how understanding the cognitive perceptive on listening can inform how companies develop products to better serve their users. I think the timing is perfect to build these kinds of industry-academia collaborations, to better understand listeners as music continues to become more portable and personalized. 


Musical anhedonia after focal brain damage: New paper in Neuropsychologia

During my dissertation work at Iowa I conducted a large-scale study of lesion patients in an attempt to identify any consistent patterns of lesion locations that were associated with musical anhedonia (musical anhedonia = a lack of enjoyment from music). The paper from this work was just published in Neuropsychologia

Previous work has identified musical anhedonia in a small number of patients with focal brain damage (<5 such cases have been identified). I studied ~80 patients and did a series of questionnaires to see if any showed indications of musical anhedonia. These individuals had brain damage due to stroke, brain surgery, or other types of focal neurological damage (but not neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease or more diffuse traumatic brain injury). What surprised me was that there were no real indications of musical anhedonia in this patient group, aside from one individual with damage to the right-hemisphere putamen/internal capsule. This part of the brain is involved in reward and motivation for other behaviors, so it is interesting that she showed a seemingly specific deficit for music.  

These results seem to indicate that acquired musical anhedonia is quite rare in patient populations. After thinking on this for a while, it started to make sense to me. We know from anecdotal experiences and from research in music therapy that music is a very powerful therapeutic tool for individuals with even the most severe neurological disorders. Every time I give a talk somewhere, I have conversations with individuals that go something like: "My aunt had dementia and the best part of her day was when the musicians would come and sing with them." Part of its therapeutic usefulness may be the fact that it is quite hard to lose the capacity to enjoy music.  

If you're interested, check out the paper in the link above or on my 'publications' page. I also chatted about musical anhedonia on LA NPR a few months ago; a link to that interview is on the 'press' page. 

Thoughts on teaching

Last week I finished up teaching my first class at NYU, a small, honors seminar on the Cognitive Neuroscience of Music. This was my first experience designing and teaching a course entirely on my own. And doing it during J-Term (J stands for January, and the course takes place over the course of three weeks) added another interesting dimension. But I had a total blast teaching this course. Below are some thoughts I've had and things I've learned about the various aspects of teaching it: 

Coming up with course content: This was super fun and not too challenging, largely because the course is on the topic of my own area of research. One of my former college professors once told me that the easiest type of course to teach is a small seminar course on your area of expertise, while the hardest to teach is a large general education course (we'll see about that soon...). In J-term, each day is like a week in any other course. So I first started by deciding on topics for each day (music + emotion, memory, language, etc.) and then choosing the readings for each topic. 

After I had selected two readings per day (a reasonable amount, I thought, given the rest of the workload), I went back and tallied up the number of male and female first and last authors. I realized that I had picked more papers by male than female authors. So I thought about women scientists whose work I know in the field, removed some of the male-authored papers, and replaced them with women-authored papers. It's important to note that the quality of papers did not decrease as a result of this exercise. I hate that I have to even make that statement, but some people justify bias by saying things like "Well the first papers you chose were probably just better than the women-authored papers." Don't need to go into details on it here, but that's just implicit bias at work. 

Choosing types of assessment/evaluation: For this step, I asked many professor friends I know for copies of their syllabi. I looked at syllabi for small seminar courses on various topics, for music cognition courses, and for courses that took place over a similarly short period of time. This was incredibly helpful for seeing how a syllabus was designed and how students were evaluated. Instead of exams, I decided on one final long paper, in the form of a research proposal. Students also had to write five short papers over the course of the class and take turns leading classroom discussions. 

I thought I was being 'nice' and 'flexible' by allowing students to turn in the short papers at any point over the course of the class, since it was in such a short period of time. Looking back, I should have required students to submit one at least week. Not only would this have prevented a bunch of grading towards the end, but I realized I wanted students to be able to practice their skills on these papers to build up to their final paper. Having them submit at least one early on would've allowed me to give them feedback and help improve the papers over time. Things to remember for next time! 

Classroom activities: Each class was 2 hours and 40 minutes a day. It's long. I split the class up in half. One half was journal club style. Students would discuss the two papers read for class (discussions were led by pairs of students). In my end-of-term evaluations, students commented on how much they enjoyed the discussions. This was a huge relief, because one of my biggest fears was not being able to get the students to talk about the papers. After the first few days, I realized this wouldn't be a problem. I was so impressed by the quality of the discussions. We had a wide range of majors, including students from the arts and humanities, which really enriched the discussion. For example, I loved it when film students would relate the papers we read to things going on in film today. I required students to submit two discussion questions before each class, and I think that really helped jumpstart the conversation. At the end of the course, one student suggested next time to have students post discussion questions on the online course forums, and I love that idea! 

The second half of the class was dedicated to some kind of activity. We did demos in the MRI and MEG machines and had a few guest speakers: Keith Doelling came and talked about entrainment, Anna Kasdan told us about music and aphasia, and Julia Buntaine chatted about her neuroscience-based art. Students gave really positive comments about the guest speakers, and I think that was a nice way to break things up so they weren't having to listen to me for 3 hours every day. On the last day of class we talked about the benefits of #scicomm and made science zines inspired by Christine Liu while listening to riot grrrl tunes. So that was probably my personal favorite day of the class. 

I'm so glad I was able to have the experience of teaching this course. It was an enormous learning experience and really fun. Now that I have that one under my belt, tomorrow starts my first day teaching Intro Psych at NYU, so I'm getting both ends of the spectrum. We'll see which ends up being the bigger challenge!


More talks: Stony Brook, Spotify, and Mount Sinai

I sometimes feel like I've spent half of my postdoc doing research and the other half giving talks. But this is actually awesome for me because I love giving talks. Not only does it help improve my public speaking and teaching skills, but I've been able to make some awesome connections and explore different institutions across the city. 

Two weeks ago, I took the train out to Stony Brook University to speak at their Language, Music, and Emotion Research Group, which is made up of scientists from the psychology and linguistics department. It was a really fun group to chat with. Aside from psychologists and linguists, there were music therapists and even literary scholars who attended the talk. One of my favorite parts about studying music is how truly interdisciplinary the field is. 

This talk at Stony Brook (like my previous talk at Notre Dame) is a great example of how making friends at conferences can help your academic career. [Note: I have zero actual evidence that giving these talks has helped my career at all, but it can't hurt, right?]. I was invited to speak at the Stony Brook lecture series by Nicole Calma, a grad student in Linguistics. Nicole and I met just by going to each other's posters every year at the CNS meeting. I highly encourage any trainees looking to make similar connections to get involved in the CNS Trainee Association


My next talk was a little outside of the typical setting, at the NYC Monthly Music Hackathon. TBH, before this I didn't really know what a hackathon was. Basically, they start off with a series of short talks to set up the subject, and then people break into groups and spend several hours 'hacking,' or producing some kind of a product related to the day's topic. Each month the hackathon is about a different music-related topic; this month's was 'music with a purpose.' I talked about my research on music and memory and heard a bunch of really interesting talks from the other speakers. 

Joanne Loewy, a music therapist, spoke on her work at the Louis Armstrong Department of Music Therapy at Mount Sinai. And Martin Urbach spoke about his work as a music educator, using music for social justice activism in teens. Really cool stuff. His talk inspired me to start reading "Teaching to Transgress" by bell hooks and I am loving it so far. I hadn't read bell hooks since my undergrad women's studies days, and had no idea she wrote on teaching. Unfortunately I didn't stay for the hacking part of the day, so I have yet to find out what the hackers came up with! 

At the hackathon, I met Joseph Borrello, a grad student at Mount Sinai who organizes a Music and Medicine course for medical and graduate students. Joe said their course had a last-minute speaker cancellation that week and he invited me to fill in. Unable to resist an opportunity to talk with people (and consider it work), I accepted. The course is kind of like a speaker series, and different students show up every week. It was a fun chance to visit Mount Sinai and chat with a small group of students and postdocs about my research. 

So that's the end of my talks for the near future. But, I'm teaching two classes at NYU (Cog Neuro + Music in J-Term, and Intro Psych in the Spring) so I guess I'll be giving "talks" on the reg... now time to go start preparing my lectures! 

Society for Neuroscience 2016

I recently returned (and am still recovering) from the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. This was my 5th (!!) time attending SfN since I first attended in 2010 as a first-year grad student. It was just as fun now as it was that first time, but I have learned over the years how to better handle such a huge conference. 

My first year I spent a lot of time aimlessly wandering around, not sure what to do, and consequently didn't see much. I felt pretty lost and overwhelmed by the thousands of posters, exhibitors, and talks going on each day. I quickly learned that planning and scheduling are critical to an SfN success!

This year I had most of my conferencing time planned out, including social events. It made my life much easier and eliminated some of the stress of the meeting. The first session I attended on Saturday AM was called "Success in Academia: A Focus on Strategies for Women." This topic is very near and dear to my heart. The session had excellent panelists and covered a range of topics including: finding a postdoc, negotiating, grants(wo)manship, over-committing, family commitments, and other issues. I live-tweeted the event, and check out this Storify by Anna Vlastis for a compilation of the tweets. 

Keeping with the theme of women in STEM, Saturday night I attended a meet-up with members of The STEM Squad, a Facebook group organized by Christine Liu. The STEM Squad is a group of women scientists, many of whom are involved in social media, blogging, art-making, and other creative pursuits. We had some margaritas and chatted about science, makeup, etc. Samantha Yammine (aka "Science Sam") posted a recap on Instagram.

At first glance, this picture is no different than any other on Instagram (especially on a Friday). . But there are a few things about it that make it pretty special, which is why I’ve decided to make it today’s #FeatureFriday post. . This photo was taken last Saturday at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, shortly after all the people in this photo met for the first time! We had been brought together by an online community called “The STEM Squad,” which is a facebook group for information-sharing between female-identifying people in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“STEM”), such as the people in this photo who I’ll describe below. . On the very left is @sailorpatch, neuroscience grad student from Torino currently on an exchange in Washington. She studies the special properties of neurons in the brain that allow them to communicate with one another. . Next to her is Rachel, who I knew prior to this meetup. Rachel has been my biggest mentor as she was a senior PhD student when I joined my lab and she trained me on everything I needed to know (+ more). Rachel now works for a funding agency, helping to make sure Canada’s best research in neurodegenerative diseases gets the money it needs. . 3rd from the left is @amybelfi, postdoc in the Dept of Psychology at @nyuniversity. Her research is in the field of neuroeesthetics, which I talked about a few posts ago for a Science Sunday. She is trying to understand how the brain perceives aesthetic experiences like art and music. . In the middle is @sarapoptart, a graduate student at @ucberkeleyofficial. She’s a PhD student in computational and cognitive neuroscience trying to understand how sound and visual information are represented in the brain. . Next to me is Christine (@christineliuart @twophoton), the founder of The STEM Squad. She’s a PhD student @ucberkeley studying how nicotine affects the brain and started The STEM Squad 3 months ago, and today the group had its 400th member join! There are daily insightful discussions and posts being shared, & I encourage you to join if you want to meet other people in similar fields going through similar struggles on the quest for success!

A photo posted by 🔬 samantha yammine (@science.sam) on

Sunday AM I attended probably the most relevant SfN session for me - Music and the Brain. There was a great line-up of speakers, including Nina Kraus, Daniel Levitin, and John Iversen. The session was chaired by Elizabeth Stegemoller from Iowa State (go Iowa!), who is a music therapist and neuroscientist. I was really excited that this session even existed at the Neuroscience meeting, and even more so when I came in and the room was packed! It was great to see music represented so well at SfN. For my #musicscience people, here's a Storify of my live-tweets from the session.

Sunday evening was a bunch of reunions! One of the best parts of SfN. First up was a dinner with Iowa friends, followed by hitting up the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience social. I found out about FUN through my St. Olaf professors, and we have a St. Olaf meet-up every year after their social. It was awesome to see so many undergraduates attending SfN. I'm really proud of my alma mater and it's great to see how the neuroscience program has grown even in the few years since I graduated. 

One of the last things I did at the conference was my poster presentation. This was my first time presenting non-music related work and it seemed to attract a different crowd than usual. Neuroaesthetics is a pretty 'niche' area, so I'm not sure the SfN crowd knew what to make of it. I actually had one person come to my poster who was convinced that it said 'anesthetic' and tried talking to me about ketamine... So it was an interesting session. Here's the poster

Overall, #sfn16 was a great time, as usual. Networking, seeing old friends, hearing about new science, and getting to hang out in San Diego and eat loads of Mexican food... what more can you ask from a conference? 

Three weeks, three talks: Iowa, Notre Dame, and Wesleyan

These past three weeks have been a blur of plane flights and long car rides (which I'm no longer used to as a newly-adjusted New Yorker). I was invited to speak at three universities this month: University of Iowa, University of Notre Dame, and Wesleyan University, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit each of them!

First up, I returned to Iowa, where I received my PhD in 2015. I was asked to come back to speak at the retreat for the Behavioral-Biomedical Interface Training Program. This program is part of a training grant in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences for students who do biomedical-focused research. I wasn't a part of this program during my PhD, but was on a similar training grant for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Neuroscience. I really can't speak highly enough about the training I received at Iowa, and I felt incredibly supported as a graduate student during my time there. 

For the retreat, students in the training program requested that recent alumni return to speak about their experiences in graduate school, challenges they faced, strategies they found useful, things they would have done differently looking back. I was part of the alumni panel with five other Iowa PhD grads. 

The retreat provided dedicated time to discuss issues that graduate students usually face on their own, or maybe discuss in private with a few friends. We discussed burnout and how important it is to take time for #AcademicSelfCare. One student approached me afterwards to say the fact that I admitted "I get really burned out sometimes" was reassuring to her. We talked about how we find (or struggle to find) the illusive work-life balance, and how this has changed since starting our postdoc. Again, I think it's critical to bring these issues out into the open and applaud the Iowa BBIP program for creating a venue to do so. 

I love Iowa City. 

I love Iowa City. 

Next up was a visit to the Notre Dame Psychology Department. My friend and fellow CNS Trainee Association organizer, Tony Cunningham, invited me to speak at their cognitive psychology colloquium. For my talk, I gave an overview of my research - I discussed my work from Iowa focusing on neuropsychological studies of music, emotion, and memory, as well as my current work at NYU looking at aesthetic responses to paintings, poetry, and music. 

If you're really curious, you can see the video of the talk here. I was impressed by the number of undergraduates who showed up (the extra credit they were offered may have influenced them a bit...) and the interesting questions they asked afterward. 

Overall, I really enjoyed getting to see the beautiful Notre Dame campus and meeting some of the psychology faculty. Plus we spent the day on Saturday doing some tailgating, which is a classic Notre Dame activity!


My last visit was to the Wesleyan University Psychology Department. Being only a couple hours away in Connecticut meant that I had to drive (!!) for the first time in a while. I'm glad to say I made it safely and remembered how, under the right conditions, long distance driving can be pleasant. And the tree-lined highways in Connecticut are quite different from the scenery in Iowa (although I find corn fields beautiful in their own right!). 

I was invited to speak by Psyche Loui, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan, who does really awesome work in all sorts of areas of music cognition and neuroscience. The nice thing about having two talks in quick succession is I was able to re-use many of my slides. The main difference between this talk and the one I gave at Notre Dame is that I focused entirely on my music-related projects, since this was more of interest to the Wesleyan group. 

As someone who went to a liberal arts college, it was fun to be back in that environment. I met with several undergraduate students working in Psyche's lab and was really impressed by the work they're doing. A couple projects include EEG sonification in patients with epilepsy and differences in brain connectivity between classical and jazz musicians. 

Overall it's been a pretty great September. I've really enjoyed getting the chance to meet students and faculty and see how different psychology departments function. And while it's been fun, I'm excited to be back at NYU for a while and focus on getting stuff done for my next presentation at SfN. I'm sure November will be here soon enough! 

News story: Improving life with Alzheimer's through music

Before I left the University of Iowa, I started a collaboration with fellow Iowa grad students Edmarie Guzman-Velez and Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, looking at the effects of music on emotions in patients with Alzheimer's disease. We recently started collecting data on the experiment, and today, a local Iowa news station did a news story on it.  See it here!

This experiment was based off a study Edma published in 2014, which found that patients with Alzheimer's disease still felt emotions up to 30 minutes after watching emotional video clips, even if they did not remember watching the clips at all. In our current study, we're attempting to see if this effect replicates with musical stimuli. 

This has been a really fun project for me for many reasons. For one, Alaine is a Music Therapist and Edma is a Clinical Psychologist. This is true interdisciplinary work. It's been fun to see how we each bring a different perspective to the table in order to achieve a common goal. I certainly think this project is better than it would have been if any of us had attempted it alone. It's also been a great way to work with some fellow awesome #WomenInSTEM. 

For any music therapists out there, Alaine will be presenting preliminary results from this work at the American Music Therapy Association Annual Meeting in November, so be sure to check it out! 


Graduate Women in Science National Conference

Last week I headed down to Raleigh, North Carolina for the 95th Annual Meeting of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS).  GWIS is a wonderful organization that I have been a part of for the past three years. Started in 1921 at Cornell University as Sigma Delta Epsilon Graduate Women's Scientific Fraternity, GWIS has grown over the years to incorporate many chapters across the globe. Something I love about GWIS is that we are a multi-generational group of women from diverse geographical areas and scientific disciplines. This year we revitalized our brand, image, and mission, so I was really excited to move forward with our progress at this year's meeting. 

The first two days consisted of business meetings for the National Council and Grand Chapter members. As the outgoing Chair of the Public Relations committee, I was part of both of these meetings. We spent a lot of time discussing our new initiatives for next year, including building a formal mentoring system and coordinating outreach across chapters. I will be chairing the new 'Lead' committee next year, so if these initiatives sound interesting to you, please get in touch! 

We also took time to celebrate the launch of our new brand, which included our new logo, colors, website, and mission. I was part of this year's Branding Committee and am so happy with the results. At the end of the two meeting days, we inducted the new National officers. I am excited to report that I was elected Vice President and can't wait to serve GWIS in this role!

2016-2017 GWIS National Council: Rozzy Finn (Editor), Michelle Booze (President-Elect), Stacey Kigar (President), me (Vice President), Laura Havens (Past President). Front row: Jennifer Ingram, Tina Hill, Anne Pumfrey, Jane Sharer Maier, all members of the Board of Directors. 

2016-2017 GWIS National Council: Rozzy Finn (Editor), Michelle Booze (President-Elect), Stacey Kigar (President), me (Vice President), Laura Havens (Past President). Front row: Jennifer Ingram, Tina Hill, Anne Pumfrey, Jane Sharer Maier, all members of the Board of Directors. 

After two days of meetings, the main conference began on Saturday. The theme of this year's meeting was "Educating Scientists for Effective Science Outreach" and kicked off with a keynote by Dr. Holly Menninger. She gave an awesome talk with lots of advice for how to get started in science outreach. Next were several concurrent sessions, and I gave a talk on some recent research I'm doing on musical aesthetics (which I'll be presenting next week at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition - more on that later!). 

After the talks, I spent the rest of the day doing some science outreach at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.  A particularly interesting aspect of the museum is the way visitors can observe real scientists in their labs. Instead of being hidden in a separate wing, the labs are fully integrated into the museum. The labs have glass walls so that museum goers can peer into the lab spaces and see real scientists doing real science. 

The museum also had the coolest space for talks. With a massive screen, stage lights, and an audience on all three floors of the museum, I felt like I was giving a TED talk. It was fun to engage members of the public and hear their questions about my research. 

Speaking at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Speaking at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

After the trip to the museum, we headed to the NC State Arboretum for a banquet where I was awarded First Place for my talk. 

Overall I had a great time at the GWIS meeting. It was fun to see many friends I've made over the years and meet some new people (including three other Iowa PhD alumni!). If you're interested in learning more about GWIS, feel free to get in touch. I love telling others about this amazing organization and hope you consider joining us!

Neural correlates of recognition and naming of musical instruments: New(ish) paper in Neuropsychology

I just realized I hadn't yet posted about a recent paper of mine that was published in the journal Neuropsychology. This paper describes work that I conducted during my PhD at the University of Iowa, which I presented last summer at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. 

In this paper, we used a neuropsychological approach to study a large sample of individuals with focal brain damage (almost 300!). Participants saw pictures of musical instruments and were asked to name each instrument. We then used a neuroanatomical analysis to identify regions of the brain where damage is associated with impairments in naming or recognizing musical instruments. 

Impaired naming was associated with damage to the left temporal pole, which is also critical for naming unique entities, and the inferior pre- and post-central gyri, which are critical regions for naming actions. Impaired recognizion was associated with more bilaterally distributed regions, including the superior temporal gyrus, which is important for auditory perception. 

Cognitive Neuroscience Meeting 2016

The 2016 Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society just took place in my home city of New York. It was my first time attending a conference in the city where I live (funny how national conferences never took place in Iowa...) which was an interesting experience. While I didn't present at the meeting, I devoted most of my time to my role as President of the CNS Trainee Association. 

The CNS Trainee Association consists of myself, Vice President Tony Cunningham and 10 committee members comprised of undergraduates, grad students, and postdocs. Traditionally, the duty of the CNS TA has been to plan a social event during the meeting. This year we sought to increase our programming and build infrastructure to continually improve our work over the following years. 

We organized one new event this year, a Professional Development Panel. Professors Robert Knight (UC Berkeley), Jessica Payne (Notre Dame) and Tali Sharot (UCL) served on the panel and discussed their careers and advice for trainees. Since this was our first time hosting this event, we were unsure what to expect in terms of participation from Trainees. The response was overwhelming! We'll definitely be organizing this event again next year, but in a bigger room and with more time for the panel to speak. 

Attendance at the CNS TA Professional Development Panel.

Attendance at the CNS TA Professional Development Panel.

Professors Robert Knight, Jessica Payne, and Tali Sharot served on our first ever CNS TA Panel. 

Professors Robert Knight, Jessica Payne, and Tali Sharot served on our first ever CNS TA Panel. 

We also hosted a Trainee Social night at McGee's Pub near the conference. Again, we greatly surpassed expectations in terms of attendance. Part of this is likely due to the great flyers made by Sarah Kark and increased promotion during the meeting. 

Packed room at the CNS TA Social. 

Packed room at the CNS TA Social. 

Overall, I would say our CNS TA events were a huge success this year. We've received lots of positive feedback and are already planning improvements for next year's meeting in San Francisco. If you're interested in getting involved in the CNS TA, please contact us at: And make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Appearance on Southern California Public Radio

Today I was a guest on AirTalk with Larry Mantle on Southern California Public Radio. In this segment, we discussed music anhedonia, when people derive no pleasure from music. In my dissertation, I conducted a large-scale study of patients with focal brain lesions in an attempt to identify individuals with acquired music anhedonia. Acquired music anhedonia appears to be quite rare, possibly rarer than music anhedonia in a healthy population. Be on the lookout for a forthcoming paper on this topic.

A fun aspect of being on the show was that listeners could call in with comments. There were a couple callers with music anhedonia - music has never done much for them! It was interesting to hear their perspective on how disliking music has affected their lives. As an academic, it's easy to get stuck in my own little esoteric world, so it's nice to be pulled back to reality sometimes and see how the work I do is related to people's lives. 

NYU Upstander Dialogue

Last night I participated in the NYU College of Arts and Sciences Upstander Dialogue. The Upstander program provides a forum for students to come together and discuss issues affecting the NYU community. The Upstander program hosts a dialogue each semester, and this semester Gabi Starr and I were the featured speakers. The topic of the dialogue was why diversity matters in an academic context. Gabi and I discussed our interdisciplinary research group, which consists of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, humanists, and medical professionals, and how we work together as a group with diverse backgrounds to achieve a common goal. 

For a recap, the NYU student newspaper wrote a short article on the dialogue, which you can read here

Appearance on Matt Logan Music Podcast

Two weeks ago I chatted with my friend Matt Logan of Music Therapy Source for his new podcast, Matt Logan Music. Matt is a music therapist who trained at the University of Iowa and is currently located in the Bay Area. During the podcast, we discussed my dissertation research on music, emotion, and memory, and other research in the field. We also discussed music in general, my favorite concert of all time, and what bands I'm currently digging. Shout-outs were made to Green Day, Rancid, the Specials, and other favorites. Make sure to check out Episode One of the podcast for my interview and stay tuned for future episodes! 

Sex differences in skin-conductance: New paper in Psychophysiology

As a great way to ring in the new year, a paper of mine was published in the January 2016 issue of Psychophysiology. This paper is part of a Special Issue on the topic of Diversity and Representation, a topic which is critically important (both in psychophysiological research and in academia more generally). 

The premise of the paper, and the thrust of the special issue, is simple: demographic variables matter. It's important to conduct psychological research on as broad and diverse a sample of participants as possible, and to look at demographic variables (such as sex, race, and socioeconomic status) during data analysis.

In our paper, healthy adults and patients with brain damage listened to musical clips while electrodermal activity was recorded. When analyzing the data without regards to sex, there were no differences in skin conductance responses between healthy adults and brain-damaged participants. However, there was a significant interaction between brain injury status and sex, in that brain damage significantly reduced skin conductance in men, but not women. 

If you're interested in reading more about inclusion and diversity in psychophysiological research, check out the special issue here

Changes after vmPFC damage: New paper published in the Journal of Neurosurgery

I'm co-author on a paper that was recently published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The purpose of the paper was to characterize behavioral and cognitive changes in patients who received meningioma resections involving the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). 

Using the large amount of neuroanatomical data available in the Patient Registry at the University of Iowa, participants' (N = 70) lesions were characterized as either involving or not involving the vmPFC. Pre- and post-operative neuropsychological data were examined, indicating that the vmPFC group showed poorer performance on decision-making tasks than the non-vmPFC group following their resection. While the vmPFC group showed these behavioral deficits, neither group showed deficits in cognition (e.g., memory, language) following surgery.

The first author on the paper is my friend Taylor Abel, currently Chief Resident in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa. For a PDF of the full article, click on the "Publications" tab or the link above. 

Music-evoked memories: New paper published in Memory

A new paper of mine was published online in the journal Memory. This paper reports the findings from the first experiment of my dissertation, in which I investigated differences in autobiographical memories evoked by musical and visual cues. 

Participants in the study heard musical clips and saw pictures of famous faces. After each clip or picture, participants described any memory that was triggered by the cue.  The take-home finding is that memories evoked by music contained a greater proportion of information directly related to the memory, while memories evoked by pictures of famous faces contained a greater number of details related to semantic aspects of the cue. 

Check out my "Publications" page for a PDF of the paper or click on the link above!

Society for Music Perception and Cognition 2015

Just returned from Nashville where I attended the 2015 meeting of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC). This conference had a lot of firsts for me: first time attending SMPC, first talk at a national conference, and my first time representing NYU. 

I presented work conducted during my PhD at the University of Iowa, investigating the neural correlates of musical instrument recognition and naming. We found that naming deficits were associated with damage to left-hemisphere structures important for naming unique entities and actions, whereas recognition deficits were associated with right-hemisphere structures important for music perception. The paper is currently under review and will hopefully be published soon.

Amy Belfi SMPC

Aside from giving my talk, I saw some really interesting work on musical aesthetics, frisson, and the neural correlates of musical improvisation. Overall, SMPC was an excellent conference and I'm looking forward to ICMPC 2016 in San Francisco!