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Every Brain is similar, yet every Brain is unique in function.  Like a Rogue PlanetR, as much as we strive to understand the brain, it nonetheless keeps its own individual system. The human brain is the only organ that studies itself and yet Is the Least understood 'Planet' within; the true Final Frontier. Although we've made progress, it often goes Rogue, defying as yet, our understanding.

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Medical Training, Teaching, and Education in Science of the Human Brain

Research Projects


Music has different levels of compositional complexity and varies with the presence or absence of lyrics. This study examines how brain network connectivity is affected by different styles and genres of music (country, classical, rock, rap, and unfamiliar). We used music with and without lyrics including Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Rock and Roll All Night by KISS,  Country music by Brad Paisley and OMG by USHER,  See Figure 1 on the right. Click here to read more about results from this project.

Network Science: A new method for investigating the complexity of musical experiences in the brain

Investigating Music Preference in the Brain: From Beethoven to Eminem

Figure 1. This figure the first paper to use network science methods and music, was published in Leonardo Transactions in 2011. The image reveals the consistency of high degree nodes in the brain in response to listening to 5 minutes of different genres of music.  Notice the high degree nodes with the auditory cortex when listening to classical music (Beethoven's 5th Symphony 1st Mvt). An axial slice of the brain is depicted. Songs are Rock and Roll All Night (KISS); OMG (Usher). Water (Brad Paisley), Beethoven 9th Symphony Mvt I and Chinese Jinna Opera Band (unfamiliar). N-21. 

Music preference is a complex phenomenon and different people respond to music,  perhaps for different reasons. However, most people choose to listen to music primarily for how it makes them feel.  People enjoy music they prefer, again for various reasons that remain to be fully understood. Regardless the reason, when people listen to music they highly prefer, they often experience spontaneous and often emotionally laden thoughts and memories This study examines multiple network-based metrics of brain network connectivity based on individual music preferences. See Figure 2 below. Click here to read more about results from this project

Figure 2. This image depicts community structure based on Q-Cut from Ruan and Zhang and Scaled Inclusivity (Steen et al 2o12). Notice the absence of connectivity to frontal regions when listening to music that is disliked. Click here to read more about how music preferences connect us to thoughts and memories

Investigating Music, Emotion and Memory 

Music remains sigularly one of the most mysterious perceptive experiences within the human mind. Often connecting powerful emotions to memories, music is associated with provocative questions surrounding consiousness, emotion, and Theory of Mind. This study uses network science methods to examine how individual favorite songs affect brain connectivity. 

The Brain and Training: Examining The Network Subspace Effects of Use-Dependant Intensive Skill Training for Mind, Machine & Motor Control

Understanding subspaces for how the brain learns to coordiate interdependent systems in 'real-time' mimics the mechanisms required for dynamic mind,machine and motor control useful for engineering intelligent systems for society. This project examines the network subspace features, and mechanisms required in neural circutry, for brain-based learning systems.

The Effects of Use-Dependent Skill Training on Brain Structure and Connectivity 


Intensive skill training in music has been shown to affect brain processes involved with enhanced speech and language development, rehabilitation in stroke recovery, brain plasticity, gait training, spatial reasoning, auditory working memory and the mirror-neuron system. However, how this style of training changes the brain remains challenging to understand. Network analyses provide a new avenue for furthering our understanding of how this type of use-dependent training in music may affect various characteristic brain properties useful for cognition. This project applies network methods to examine different types and years of training to examine if and how formal musical training affects brain structural and functional connectivity. This project is conducted as part of UNCG student Catheryn Shaw's doctoral research study in brain imaging and music education.


NetSci Ed: Brain Networks and Music


Network Science, Neuroimaging and The Effects of Music on the Brain:  Training pre-college and undergraduate students through hands-on skill training in network science techniques and big data processing by exploring the effects of music on the brain.


Robin W. Wilkins, Michelle Lovett, David J. Teachout, Daniel C. Herr & Robert A. Kraft


Integrating research and network science education to equip graduates with the latest ideas, technological know-how and skills is currently a national priority.  The pursuit of new ideas, including cross-cutting interdisciplinary research, requires envisioning new formulations of educational approaches and teams that can provide state-of-the-art research opportunities and ensure significant continuing advances across science, engineering, and education; teams that can integrate education and research to support the development of a diverse workforce with cutting-edge capabilities. This NetSci education STEM project provides hands-on training in network science techniques to university undergraduate and pre-college students. Harnessing a student’s natural interest in music to foster early training in technical skills and the mathematics of network science methods, this community-based partnership between the Gateway MRI Center, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the Joint School for Nanoscience and Nanotechnolgy and Guilford County Schools offers  pre-college students hands-on training experiences in the techniques and methods of a complex systems approach to working with large data sets, in this case neuroimaging data sets. Students receive training, at the elbows of experts.  during practicums held after school in media centers or site based computer labs and evening sessions at the Gateway MRI center and at JSNN. 


This hands-on approach offers musically-interested students network science and neuroimaging techniques,  as well as highly technical computer science-based language data processing skills in UNIX/LINUX and matlab ,to pursue interdisciplinary scientific research and workplace technical fields. Broader aims of this STEM project are to generate young students and graduate students with highly skilled technical knowledge who are informed and technically prepared to be able to pursue 21st century ‘big data’ scientific, or engineering-based, academic or career endeavors.

Towards a Constructionist Approach for Understanding Emotional Responses to Music and Brain Connectivity

Robin W. Wilkins, Kristen A. Lindquist  Jeffrey A. Brooks and Robert A. Kraft


The constructionist theoretical framework to an understanding of brain-based emotion suggests that emotions are contextually situated--broadly diffuse 'gestalt' experiences-- comprised of fine-grained ingredients that cohabitate between the mind and body.  Music is often used a tool to reorganize people's emotional state more broadly, and, more specifically, potentially affect and mediate the emotional driver-systems between the mind and body.  This study investigates the constructionist theoretical framework using music and emotionally-laden terms, such as anxiety and anger, to evaluate network connectivity of emotional responses to music in the brain. 


Dr. Hiroki Sayama,  Binghamton University SUNY and author of Introduction to the Modeling and Analyses of Complex Systems is a Network Science & Computer Science Expert. Here he talks about the broad applications of network science education for NetSci High. Click here to learn more about the book and NetSci High...

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The Comparative Effects of  Formal Musical Training on the N100 Auditory Evoked Response between Musically Trained and Non-Musically Trained Young Adults

Ola Alsalman-Drame,  Robin W. Wilkins,  Leslie Johnson and Denise Tucker

This project combines EEG with Neuroscan Brain Mapping and  is funded by the School of Heath and Human Performance  Department of Communication Science Disorders and the Music Research Institute of  The University of North Carolina Greensboro

Investigating Music and Emotion, within Brain Networks
Robin W. Wilkins

This study applies network science methods to neuroimaging data collected while subjects listened to their favorite song or music to investigate whether personally selected favorite music changes brain connectivity in regions associated with emotion and memory. 
This project is funded by the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Gateway MRI Center.

Mind, Brain and Music Education: The Effects of Musical Experiences on the Learning and Developing Brain

Robin W. Wilkins

This study applies network science to neuroimaging data collected while subjects listened to their preferred music to investigate whether the default mode network shows enhanced connectivity based on musical preference. Results from this study will be useful for those interested in understanding the role musical experiences have in educational environments.

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