Lab Director

Dr. W. Jay DowlingI received my education at Northwestern University, first in music and then in psychology (BA, 1963) under the guidance of Arnold Jacobs (music) and Donald T. Campbell (psychology). My graduate education was in the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard, working in child language development under the guidance of Roger Brown and in auditory perception with Donald A. Norman (AM, 1966; PhD, Social Psychology, 1968). I taught at UCLA (1966-73) and at California State University, Los Angeles (1973-75) before coming to UT Dallas in 1975. My principal area of interest is the perception and cognition of music, the subject of my book (with Dane Harwood) Music Cognition (1986). I am an associate editor of the journals Music Perception and Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, and a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America.

My research interests have centered on the psychological reality and relevance to perception and memory of patterns of musical organization. What do listeners understand of music they have just heard? How do listening skills develop over the lifespan? Of particular importance is the perceptual framework in pitch and time in terms of which we hear music. Pitch is organized in terms of tonality and musical scales, and time in terms of a beat and its subdivisions. One series of studies concerns the implicit knowledge listeners have of musical structure. Typical studies investigate memory for melodies differing in such features as strength of tonality (tonal vs. atonal), contrasting recognition of changes in the global patterns of melodies (melodic contour) with recognition of changes in the fine intervallic detail, note for note, of melodies. A surprising result that I have been investigating intensively for the past few years concerns the improvement of memory for fine melodic detail that seems to occur automatically over the first 30 seconds after you hear a novel melody.

Another series of my studies investigates the listener's ability to focus attention in pitch and time in order to pick up important information in a sequence of tones. A typical task is an auditory analog of the visual "hidden figures" test in which you have to find six lions hidden in the jungle. Listeners are asked to discern a familiar melody whose notes have been temporally interleaved with distractor notes. Listeners can use their knowledge of where (in pitch) and when (in time) critical events are located to focus their attention effectively. Notes at distinctly unexpected times and pitches become "lost" to perception, and notes at slightly unexpected pitches (quarter-step neighbors of scale notes) become assimilated to their scale-step neighbors. That is, pitches in a rapid sequence are encoded by the listener in terms of familiar categories. These studies have been extended to cover the development of music cognition from early childhood into old age. The importance of perceptual learning in shaping the listener's musical experience is clear, and it is important to study the progress of that learning throughout the lifespan.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Rachna RamanDr. Rachna Raman received her PhD in Psychological Sciences in December 2013 from UT Dallas, where she worked under the supervision of Dr. W. Jay Dowling. She is presently continuing there as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer. Rachna’s research focuses on cross-cultural studies primarily involving South Indian classical (Carnātic) and Western classical music, the influence of aging and musical expertise on music cognition, neurophysiological mechanisms underlying music perception and cognition, perception of stylistic differences in music using multidimensional tools, and perception of emotion in music. Rachna sings Western classical and Carnātic music, and also plays the bass guitar and keyboard. Her other hobbies include reading, gardening, and learning languages.


Graduate Research Assistants

Kieth GryderKieth Gryder is a graduate student in the Psychological Sciences doctoral program. Classically trained as a trombonist, he is also self-taught in bass guitar. Kieth graduated from UT Arlington with a BA in Psychology, and from UT Dallas with an MS in Applied Cognition & Neuroscience. His academic/research interests are aimed at music cognition and memory, which is partially inspired by Oliver Sacks’ work along with his own interest in the beneficial qualities of music. Other research interests include relationships between cultural perceptions of music and enjoyment, music and learning, and neuroscience. Kieth’s aspiration is to be a professor for his love of teaching as well as a researcher in the field of music cognition. In his spare time, Kieth practices bass guitar, singing in the shower, along with playing video games, D&D, and learning new recipes to cook.

Kharanshu PatelKharanshu Patel is a graduate student in the Applied Cognition and Neuroscience program at the University of Texas at Dallas. He completed his bachelors in Nanotechnology. Kharanshu’s future aspiration is to carry out psychedelic research particularly focusing on the effects of psychedelics on human brain and cognition. He is also interested in studying the effects of healing frequencies on cognition and perception. Kharanshu’s hobbies include playing various outdoor sports and listening to music preferably rock and blues.

Sanket PatoleSanket Patole is a Masters student in Business Analytics at the Jindal School of Management. He has an MBA and a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Mumbai. Sanket’s primary research interests are in application of research methodologies for exploring the virtuousness of the traditional Indian classical music and understanding its effects on psychology and emotions. Sanket has a profound interest in Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet (North Indian classical music) and has been learning from connoisseurs Pandit Suresh Bapat, Shri. Kiran Phatak, Smt. Managala Sant, and Shri. Nana Tatke.

Sharvani ReddySharvani Reddy is a graduate student in the Applied Cognition and Neuroscience program at the University of Texas at Dallas. She graduated from the University of Hyderabad with a degree in Optometry and Vision Science. Sharvani finds both vision and audition fascinating, and the intersection of both interests her the most. She hopes to understand how we perceive music, and the relationship between music and emotion. Sharvani is also interested in how the visual emotional information influences the perception of music. Her other interests include memory and inattentional blindness. Sharvani’s hobbies include watching various sports, such as cricket and tennis, reading mystery novels, and listening to music.

Samantha VorsinoSamantha Vorsino is a graduate student in the Applied Cognition and Neuroscience program at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has a background in psychology and neuroscience, and her research interests include music memory with aging, music with neurodegenerative diseases, and the underlying neurological mechanisms of music cognition. Samantha’s hobbies include playing video games, painting, knitting, reading, and listening to music. She hopes to one day be able to travel around the world, and has a goal to pet every dog she meets.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Brandon CarterBrandon Carter is an undergraduate majoring in Psychology and minoring in Music. He hopes to continue his education in Psychology and pursue a PhD. Brandon is (or at least was) proficient in German and plays the accordion on a basic level. On a more intermediate level, he plays the guitar, bass guitar, and the piano. Since 2015, Brandon has extensively studied music theory at UTD. His hobbies include hiking, cooking, gardening, music composition, D&D, and watching movies with friends.

Cynthia ChanCynthia Chan is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology. She aspires to further her academic studies and pursue a PhD in Psychology. A classical musician of 17 years, Cynthia is trained in flute and piano. Her hobbies include traveling, learning instruments, learning languages, and ice skating.

Sophia HegazinSophia Hegazin is an undergraduate majoring in Biology. She plans to pursue a future in Dentistry and hopes to further specialize in pediatrics or oral surgery. Sophia has enjoyed playing piano in the past, as well as being a part of her high schools’ choir. She enjoys spending time with family and loved ones, cooking, watching movies, and hiking.

Riya MahajaniRiya Mahajani joined the University of Texas at Dallas in the Fall of 2017. She has recently developed an interest in Cognitive Science, and is planning on majoring in it. Riya has been learning the Indian Classical Dance, Bharatnatyam, over the past 9 years, and has completed two national-level exams in it. She enjoys learning German, and she completed the Goethe-Zertifikat B1 in the June of 2017. Her other hobbies include reading, listening to a variety of music, cycling, and horseback riding.

Rachel ManuelRachel Manuel is an undergraduate student majoring in Biology. She is in the UT-PACT BA/MD program and will matriculate to UTSW Medical School in 2018. Rachel has had 6 years of choral experience and 3 years of formal vocal instruction. In addition, Rachel enjoys playing the piano and guitar.

Xudong “Leon” WangXudong (Leon) Wang is an undergraduate biochemistry major on the premed track at the University of Texas at Dallas. Ever since taking the AP Psychology in high school, he has developed an interest and endless curiosity for the field. Topics like memory and cognition, personality traits, and development interest him. Leon is also intrigued by biology and chemistry, and he hopes that all of this knowledge will help him in the future. Leon was a member of the Allen Independent School District’s band program for five years, playing the clarinet for concert and marching band. He is currently teaching himself to play the ukulele. Leon also enjoys reading mystery novels, watching TV shows, and listening to a variety of music.

Sahiti YarakalaSahiti Yarakala is an undergraduate pre-med student majoring in Biology. Her experience in music ranges from playing violin to singing Carnātic (South Indian classical) music. She hopes to attend UT Southwestern for her graduate studies. Her hobbies include taking part in sports, such as badminton and basketball, photography, and listening to a variety of music.


Affiliated Students

Jay AppajiJay Appaji is currently pursuing a double major in music and engineering at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. His research interests involve investigating the perception of rhythm. He was recently invited to present his poster “Cognition of South Indian Percussion” at the SysMus17 conference held at Queen Mary University in London. Jay is passionate about pursuing music at a professional level and collaborating with musical traditions from around the world. Since 2009, he has been studying the mridangam, the primary drum of South India. He regularly performs in Texas and in other national venues.


Krithi BharadwajKrithi Bharadwaj is a senior at Allen High School with an interest in neural sciences and a passion for music. Krithi’s musical experience comes from formal education of Carnātic (South Indian classical) music and classical piano. She is excited to pursue her research interests in music perception and cognition. In her spare time, Krithi enjoys volunteering and spending time with her grandparents.

Alex BichlerAlexander Bichler received an MS in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience at UT Dallas. He has a background in linguistics, computer science, natural language processing, and mathematics. Alex is a data scientist with research interests in speech synthesis, artificial neural networks, and computational semantics. His hobbies include building computers, video gaming, cooking, brewing, and building models. Alex is currently studying Japanese, hierarchical temporal models, and full stack development.

Chris LoChris Lo is currently a prospective medical student with interests in pediatric neurosurgery. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in Voice Performance, under the tutelage of Former Senior Voice Lecturer, Scharmal Schrock. Other mentors include Dr. Jeffrey Snider at University of North Texas and Gary Arvin at Indiana University. Chris is now teaching music and performing with various organizations, including the Dallas Symphony Chorus and Anime Orchestra Experience at the University of Texas at Dallas. His research interests involve music’s physiological and psychological effects compared to that of other art forms, including topics of music therapy and synesthesia. Other instruments Chris has studied include piano, cello, and guitar.

Shalini NamuduriShalini Namuduri is currently a junior at Flower Mound High School. She is interested in exploring various areas of science, including psychology. Shalini has been learning South Indian classical (Carnātic) music and Western music for 11 and 9 years respectively. She also regularly performs with the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra (GDYO) and participates in competitions. In her spare time, Shalini enjoys reading, listening to music, taking pictures, and watching critically-acclaimed movies.

Sherwin NouraniSherwin Nourani received his MS in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience and his MA in Humanities at UT Dallas, and is currently pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Rochester. His ongoing research projects at the MPaC lab include the Persian and Japanese “Wrong Note” studies (Khers and Kuma).

Krishna ThirumalaiKrishna Thirumalai is a high-school student in the Plano school district. He is interested in the natural and behavioral sciences. Krishna’s passion for music emanates from his strong foundation in Western and Carnātic (South Indian classical) music. He has been playing the saxophone for 6 years and is trained in mridangam, the primary Carnātic percussion instrument. Krishna has performed in Jazz bands for 3 years and has qualified three times for All Region. He is regularly involved in collaborative projects involving Carnātic music.


Lab Alumni

Gulsen BaltaGulsen Balta

Sirisha BhadrirajuSirisha Bhadriraju

Kevin HerndonKevin Herndon

Saket IswaraSaket Iswara

Jaicey JohnsonJaicey Johnson

Daniel KeaneDaniel Keane

Dr. Marina Korsakova-KreynDr. Marina Korsakova-Kreyn


Dr. Shannon LaymanDr. Shannon Layman

WebsiteWebsite: Dr. Layman’s website

Sarah MorrisSarah Morris

Parisa NajafigolParisa Najafigol

Bhavana PenmetsaBhavana Penmetsa

Ashwin RameshAshwin Ramesh

Stephen RaveneauStephen Raveneau


Kalina ReyneKalina Reyne

Franco SabatiniFranco Sabatini 

Alan-Michael SonuyiAlan-Michael Sonuyi

William StanfordWilliam Stanford

Naveen SubramanianNaveen Subramanian

David TramDavid Tram

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