Interdisciplinary lab will explore the effects of music on the brain

Pitch Exploration Lab, a space created for undergraduate or graduate students from any major to explore music, brain and psychology topics with a focus on pitch processing and psycho-motor activity, will begin meeting in January and is now accepting enrollees.

School of Music Assistant Professor Bryan Nichols developed the lab and will lead the interdisciplinary research that will explore the growing fields of music perception and cognition to achieve a better understanding of how the brain works for musical tasks, but also for non-musical reasons.

The lab, supported by the Center for Pedagogy in the Arts and Design, is open to all students, but those with a background in acoustics, psychology, neuroscience or statistics are particularly encouraged to join the group, which will meet once per week throughout the spring semester.

"Penn State is emphasizing interdisciplinary work, and with strong programs in the sciences and psychology it seemed a prime time to begin a lab integrating work in those fields," Nichols said. "Students are seeking interdisciplinary study opportunities, and I see this lab as a space for student-led discussion and project design."

Participation in the group will not earn students credit hours, but young scholars with interests in areas such as behavioral analytics, perception and processing musical pitch, computer modeling, applying statistics to real-world problems, data visualization or neuroscience will find the lab an exciting place to apply their knowledge and stretch their thinking within various in-depth projects.

"I want it to be a supportive space where people from different backgrounds can propose a research design and discuss and debate its merit, which makes it an ideal place to generate and execute new research ideas," Nichols said. "I'm hopeful it will help us make new connections between departments and stimulate teaching and research in music perception and cognition."

There is no deadline for applications and interested students can contact Bryan Nichols at for more information.

Schools and Departments: School of Music
Unit Research: Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design