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

Varun AthilatVarun Athilat holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Houston and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in applied cognition and neuroscience at UT Dallas. He started playing piano at the age of 10, and also played cello throughout middle and high school. Varun’s research interests span music perception in regard to phrasing, the increasing use and prevalence of images in language, and mental health disorders. He also runs a YouTube channel with over 8,000 subscribers dedicated to showcasing classical music and is working on several projects centered around transcribing Bollywood songs for the piano. Outside of his academics and music, Varun enjoys cooking, browsing social media, writing, and traveling.

Kieth GryderKieth Gryder is a graduate student in the psychological sciences doctoral program. Classically trained as a trombonist, he is also self-taught on bass guitar. Kieth graduated from UT Arlington with a BA in psychology, and from UT Dallas with an MS in applied cognition and 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 learning and music. Other research interests include relationships between familiarity and recognition, learning, beneficial qualities of music, and neuroscience. Kieth’s aspiration is to be a professor for his love of teaching as well as continuing research in the field of music cognition. In his spare time, Kieth practices bass guitar and singing in the shower, along with watching “bad” movies, D&D, and learning new recipes to cook.

Melanie HolmesMelanie Holmes holds a BA in psychology and music from DePaul University, where she researched the relationship between music and nostalgia and studied classical voice. Before coming to UT Dallas, she spent 4 years working with the American Psychological Association’s Office of Publications and Databases. Her research interests include cross-cultural comparisons of music perception and the effects of music production on manual tasks. Outside of the lab, Melanie enjoys reading, playing video games, and knitting.

Aishwarya Sri KandakumarAishwarya Sri Kandakumar has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, and she is currently pursuing an MS in applied cognition and neuroscience at UT Dallas. As an undergrad, Aishwarya worked with music perception and cognition using EEG. Her research interests include neuroimaging, cognition, and memory. Aishwarya has other extra-curricular activities, such as dancing and binge-watching shows on Netflix. She is also a Marvel fanatic.

Brendon MizenerBrendon Mizener holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Northwestern State University in Louisiana and a master’s degree in music performance with a concentration in percussion from the University of New Mexico. He has performed around the country with various groups, including the Phantom Regiment (as a tuba player), PercussioNM, and the Category 5 Wind Ensemble. For the 6 years prior to joining the MPaC Lab, Brendon taught high school band at Old Mill High School in Millersville, Maryland. His research interests include a broad range of topics, including the neural correlates underlying music processing, the intersection of music and language, and the role of cognition in music education. In his spare time, Brendon enjoys rock climbing, drumming, and spending time with his wife.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Anuja JayachandranAnuja Jayachandran is an undergraduate pre-medicine student studying neuroscience, with a minor in Spanish language and culture. She plans to pursue a career in medicine in the future. Anuja has been very interested in music from a young age, through dancing, singing, and playing the piano. She was the lead vocalist for her music school’s ensemble, which allowed the opportunity to perform at various charities and other major events. Anuja played the clarinet through middle school and was in choir throughout high school. In addition, she started dancing when she was 5, and playing the piano, not soon after. Music persists to be a valued part of Anuja’s life, and it is especially interesting when music perception is combined with memory and cognition. Some hobbies include traveling, watching Netflix, and listening to music.

Salek KhanSalek Khan is an undergraduate student majoring in electrical engineering. He is planning to pursue a masters and PhD in engineering or data science. Salek is interested in data analysis and processing, and wishes to be a valuable part of the MPaC lab by extracting useful information from the collected data sets. Salek enjoys tinkering with electronics, coding, 3D printing, building computers, and playing tennis and chess.

Rithvik MalireddyRithvik Malireddy is an undergraduate pre-medical student majoring in neuroscience. He is currently involved in many clubs on campus including HOSA, DECA, Molding Doctors, and UTD Raftaar. Rithvik also regularly volunteers at Agape Clinic, the free health clinic in downtown Dallas. In his free time, Rithvik loves playing basketball, reading books, playing video games, as well as spending time with his family. He plans to pursue a future career in medicine.

Bryan MunozBryan Muñoz is an undergraduate student majoring in neuroscience with a minor in neurobiology at UTD. He is highly motivated to become a pediatric ophthalmologist. Born in Barranquilla, Colombia and raised in Miami, Florida, Bryan currently resides in Dallas with his wife of 3 years. He is passionate about helping others through healthcare and music. Currently, Bryan works at an eye clinic in Oak Cliff as a technician. In his free time, he plays lead electric guitar for his church. Bryan is a self-taught guitarist and has been playing and learning for over 10 years.

Samiksha RameshSamiksha Ramesh is a senior, majoring in healthcare studies, with a child development minor. She is in the pre-physical therapy track and is interested in infant cognition, hoping to carry on her education into Physical Therapy school and work in the NICU as a neonatal physical therapist. Samiksha is also a Carnātic and Hindustāni singer, learning since the age of 4. She loves learning about how cognition correlates to music and our emotions. For instance, how do we feel when listening to a particular rāgam? What setting do you visualize?

Tafari ScottTafari Scott is an undergraduate student majoring in psychology. He aims to earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology to become a psychotherapist specialized in helping young adults and adolescents to provide preventative care along with treatment. A former musician of the trumpet for 7 years, he played from his elementary years up until his junior year in high school. He enjoys listening to varying types of music throughout the day, particularly while skateboarding. His hobbies include spending quality time with his girlfriend and close friends, playing videogames, playing basketball, exercising, and watching and/or sketching anime.

Jacob ThomasJacob Thomas is an undergraduate student majoring in neuroscience. His interest in music began when he started learning to play the piano at age 7, which he continued until he was 17, and then decided to move on to the guitar. Jacob loves music and wears earbuds for the majority of the day, which naturally made this lab a very interesting choice for him. Jacob also plays basketball and watches TV in his free time. He hopes to eventually go to medical school and become a doctor.


Affiliated Students

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 senior data scientist with research interests in speech synthesis, artificial neural networks, and computational linguistics. His hobbies include building computers, video gaming, woodworking, brewing, and 3-D printing. Alex is currently studying Japanese, deep learning, data warehousing, and data vaulting.

Tanay ‘Nate’ KasargodTanay ‘Nate’ Kasargod has a BS in psychology with a minor in Spanish from UT Dallas. He began playing guitar and saxophone at 12, and loves music ranging from concerts to plays. Nate has also played numerous sports, especially tennis, soccer, and swimming. His hobbies include traveling, chess, and dance. Nate’s academic interests and research foci (including conflict management, brain studies, abnormal psychology, and music cognition) reflect his passion for psychology and medicine. He worked at The Couples Daily Lives lab, and presented a poster at the 2017 TPA Convention. In addition to his research at various labs, he has also enjoyed volunteering in the community and working in hospitals. After his UTD graduation, he has been in a psych research internship with Dr. Dowling. In Fall 2019, he expanded on his interest in music cognition by joining the MPaC lab. He aspires to eventually become a doctor.

Chris LoChris Lo is a medical student at UNTHSC-TCOM. 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 still performs as a freelance musician. His current research includes studying music, color, and emotion associations across cultures with Dr. Rachna Raman at UTD and Performing Arts Medicine with Dr. Sajid Surve at UNTHSC. Other instruments Chris has studied include piano, cello, and guitar.

Sherwin NouraniSherwin Nourani is an independent researcher who received his MS in applied cognition and neuroscience and his MA in humanities at UT Dallas. His ongoing research project at the MPaC lab includes the Persian and Japanese “Wrong-Note” study (Khers and Kuma).

Krishna ThirumalaiKrishna Thirumalai is currently doing a BS in ITS at UT Dallas. 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

Sania AliSania Ali

Riley AndersonRiley Anderson

Jay AppajiJay Appaji

Gulsen BaltaGulsen Balta

Lauren BernalLauren Bernal

Sirisha BhadrirajuSirisha Bhadriraju

Krithi BharadwajKrithi Bharadwaj

Brandon CarterBrandon Carter

Cynthia ChanCynthia Chan

Shiqi HeShiqi He

Sophia HegazinSophia Hegazin

Kevin HerndonKevin Herndon

Saket IswaraSaket Iswara

Jaicey JohnsonJaicey Johnson

Daniel KeaneDaniel Keane

Nabihah KhanNabihah Khan

Kovida KoneruKovida Koneru

Dr. Marina Korsakova-KreynDr. Marina Korsakova-Kreyn


Dr. Shannon LaymanDr. Shannon Layman

Kaitlyn LuckockKaitlyn Luckock

Riya MahajaniRiya Mahajani

Rachel ManuelRachel Manuel

Sarah MorrisSarah Morris

Parisa NajafigolParisa Najafigol

Shalini NamuduriShalini Namuduri

Namratha NiranjanNamratha Niranjan

Kharanshu PatelKharanshu Patel

Bhavana PenmetsaBhavana Penmetsa

Ashwin RameshAshwin Ramesh

Stephen RaveneauStephen Raveneau

Sharvani ReddySharvani Reddy

Hannah ReedHannah Reed

Franco SabatiniFranco Sabatini

Ryan ScottRyan Scott

Alan-Michael SonuyiAlan-Michael Sonuyi

William StanfordWilliam Stanford

Naveen SubramanianNaveen Subramanian

David TramDavid Tram

Obed VacaObed Vaca

Samantha VorsinoSamantha Vorsino

Xudong “Leon” WangXudong (Leon) Wang

Nihitha WoonaNihitha Woona

Sahiti YarakalaSahiti Yarakala