Psy 348: Music & Brain, Spring 2015

How the building blocks of music are affected by acoustics, neurobiology, perceptual grouping, brain damage, and cognitive neuroscience.

Course Information & Syllabus

Syllabus updated 4/13/15 – Please check Canvas for updates 

PSY 348: Music and the Brain, Winter 2015, Dr. Christina Karns [“Dr. Karns”]

Mondays and Wednesdays: 4:00 pm – 5:20 pm (16:00-17:20). 123 PAC Pacific Hall 123

Course Questions What are the neural correlates of our perception of tonality, harmony, melody, and rhythm?

How do these relate to acoustics, auditory neurobiology, perceptual grouping mechanisms, brain damage, and cognitive neuroscience?


Course Overview

I love to teach, and my goal is to teach you about music, your brain, and a how your musical perceptions are constructed from physical inputs in as comprehensive and engaging a manner as I can. There are no prerequisites, but this is a challenging course. This course satisfies the University Science Group Requirement. This course assumes no previous knowledge of music theory or neuroscience but will introduce basic concepts and methods relevant to these fields. Hopefully you will work hard and have fun along with me.


At the end of this course you will:

  • have the foundational knowledge to explore music at several levels of analysis:
    • physical properties of sound
    • mathematical descriptions of sound (spectral analysis/frequency domain)
    • individual notes
    • melody
    • harmony
    • rhythm
  • have the foundational knowledge to understand how the brain processes sound and music
    • auditory sensory and systems neuroscience
    • cognitive psychology of music (e.g. perceptual grouping, working memory, mental imagery)
    • brain imaging
    • effects of specific brain damage
  • be able to ask meaningful questions about how the brain processes music
  • be able to identify how one might attempt to answer these questions empirically

In all of these areas, we use music and our perceptual experience of music as a unifying framework.


** Dr. Karns’ office: LISB 179. Enter through the main entrance of LISB. Ring the doorbell for the Neville Lab and ask for me. Feel free to ask for an appointment if you can’t attend office hours.


Dr. CHRISTINA KARNS, PH.D. (“Dr. Karns”) (Subject: Psych 348)

541-321-MIND **see below

LISB 179

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 3:30 to 5 — or by appointment


Location: LISB 179 Lewis Integrative Sciences Building (LISB). **Directions below.

Enter through the main entrance. Ring the doorbell for the Neville Lab and ask for me. Feel free to ask for an appointment if you can’t attend office hours.

Phone/Text: 541-321-MIND or 541-321-6463 – This is my teaching number for course-related texts and phone calls. A quick text is appropriate to cancel an appointment, get directions to my office (e.g. if you get lost), or find me if I stepped out of office hours (include your name). You can also use this number for calls during office hours or by appointment if you are unable to come by in person.


Grace Binion

Lead GTF


Office Hours:

T/R 8-9:30am

or by appointment

Location: Straub 365



Assistant GTF (Blackboard/Canvas)


Office Hours: By appointment

Getting your questions answered:

For all your course-related questions and content-related questions, post your question to the Blackboard/Canvas Discussion Forum. Then everyone can benefit from the discussion — and you will get a quicker answer from me, your teaching assistants, or your classmates. Forum participation can even boost your participation grade. Course-related questions of a sensitive nature can be addressed to Include Psych 348 in the subject heading.


About your instructors

Christina Karns, Ph.D.

I’m a brain nerd! My Ph.D. is in Neuroscience from University of California, Berkeley. I’ve been doing brain research – mainly human neuroimaging — since before there was google. My favorite brain research topics are attention, “multisensory integration” or how your senses combine, neuroplasticity, and the neuroscience of positive emotions.  I balance teaching with a busy research career that involves designing and conducting experiments, supervising student researchers, analyzing data, writing scientific manuscripts and writing grants. Besides brain research and teaching, I also love great music, inspiring art, and my family and friends. Come by and talk to me in my office hours or make an appointment if you want to chat about course content or your interests in psychology or neuroscience.


Grace Binnion

Grace is our lead teaching assistant (GTF). Grace is a first-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology. In her research, she asks: What are the psychological, neural, and physiological processes that explain why some children and adolescents are resilient following experiences such as childhood trauma and parental psychopathology? Grace will also check my teaching email and course phone number. She will assist students with their questions and will assist me with writing and grading exams and quizzes, will assist with grading term projects and will hold office hours.


Jenny Mendoza

Jenny will help with Blackboard and/or Canvas issues as assistant GTF. Please CC her on any emails relating to technical issues with the course at







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