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 on 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 learning and music. Other research interests include relationships between cultural perceptions of music and enjoyment, 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, singing in the shower, along with playing video games, D&D, and learning new recipes to cook.

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.

xxxxBrendon 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) and PercussioNM. 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, reading, and spending time with his wife.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Riley AndersonRiley Anderson is an undergraduate student pursuing a BS in neuroscience. She is specifically interested in continuing her research career by attaining a master’s degree and hopefully specializing in the neuroscience of pain so that she may be able to one day help people find relief from their neuropathy, a condition which her father suffers from. Riley taught herself how to play guitar and loves listening to different types of music from around the world. Most often, one could find her reading at home, painting, or writing poetry during her free time.

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.

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.

Namratha NiranjanNamratha Niranjan is doing a double major in Psychology and Child-Learning Development, with a minor in Speech-Language Pathology. She aspires to pursue Clinical Psychology for her graduate studies. Namratha has studied South Indian classical (Carnātic) vocal music for 12 years, participated in Ashok Ramani’s group in the 2015 Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival, was featured in a video for Indian Raga Lab, and plays piano, harmonium, viola, and guitar. She has also served as Co-Director for UTD’s Dhunki A Cappella, arranging and teaching music, leading the team to their 1st place win at a national competition (Anahat 2017). As a musician, Namratha is most interested in the intersection of music perception and memory. Her hobbies include volunteering, reading, sketching, and binge-watching the Office multiple times.

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

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 ICMPC15 in July 2018. 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.


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, cooking, brewing, and 3-D printing. Alex is currently studying Japanese, deep learning, data warehousing, and data vaulting.

Shiqi HeShiqi He is a recent graduate of UTD’s psychology undergraduate program. She hopes to continue her education in psychology and pursue a PhD. Shiqi would like to use her psychology knowledge to help people release stress and better communicate with other people. Also, she is very interested in abnormal psychology, for example, DID. Shiqi’s hobbies include cooking, painting, listening to music, and reading. She believes that music could help people release stress and regulate emotions.

Chris LoChris Lo is a medical student at UNT-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 is now performing as a section leader and cantor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, TX. His current research includes studying music, color, and emotion associations across cultures. Performing Arts Medicine and Music Therapy are other research interests of Chris’, leading to the development of the month music therapy program at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas Hospital and research with Dr. Alisa Rich at UNTHSC-TCUSOM. 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).

Sharvani ReddySharvani Reddy received her MS in applied cognition and neuroscience from UT Dallas, and currently works as a research assistant at The Mind Research Network. She received her MSc in optometry and vision science from the University of Hyderabad. Sharvani finds both vision and audition fascinating, and is interested in how the visual emotional information influences the perception of music. Sharvani’s hobbies include watching sports, such as cricket and tennis, reading, and listening to music.

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

Gulsen BaltaGulsen Balta

Lauren BernalLauren Bernal

Sirisha BhadrirajuSirisha Bhadriraju

Krithi BharadwajKrithi Bharadwaj

Brandon CarterBrandon Carter

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

WebsiteWebsite: Dr. Layman’s website

Kaitlyn LuckockKaitlyn Luckock

Riya MahajaniRiya Mahajani

Rachel ManuelRachel Manuel

Sarah MorrisSarah Morris

Parisa NajafigolParisa Najafigol

Shalini NamuduriShalini Namuduri

Kharanshu PatelKharanshu Patel

Bhavana PenmetsaBhavana Penmetsa

Ashwin RameshAshwin Ramesh

Stephen RaveneauStephen Raveneau

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