University of Nevada, Las Vegas

UNLV Postdoctoral Position: Perception and Cognitive Neuroscience

Postdoctoral Research: Perception and Cognitive Neuroscience (Postdoctoral Position)
Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Psychology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas invites applications for a one-year (renewable up to several years) postdoctoral fellowship to conduct research on the neural basis of auditory and visual perception in healthy individuals and in individuals with schizophrenia. Applicants are expected to have completed a Ph.D. in Psychology, Cognitive Science, or Neuroscience, and have published (or had accepted) research in one or more of these areas, with particular expertise and continuing interest in using psychophysical and/or non-invasive brain measurement techniques to understand mechanisms of perception and cognition. The salary range begins at approximately $36,000 annually, depending on years since Ph.D. according to the NIH post-doctoral scale. The ideal candidate will have experience carrying out research using some combination of psychophysical, ERP, MEG, structural MRI, and functional MRI techniques, using software such as Matlab/EEGLAB, Presentation, and BESA. Interviews will be conducted until the position is filled, and the position may begin as early as the Fall of 2009. Apply online at by submitting a detailed letter of interest, a detailed curriculum vita including a list of references, and relevant scholarly publications. For specific questions regarding the position, contact Dr. Joel Snyder at Information about the laboratory is available at EEO/AA Employer

Contact Information:
Joel Snyder
Department of Psychology
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway- Mail Stop 5030
Las Vegas, NV 89154-5030

Babies Master Music

The UNLV psychology department is looking deeper into how infants learn and interpret music and rhythmic patterns with a series of studies in their auditory cognition and development lab.

The lab is conducting several studies aimed at determining how the brains of babies between three months and one year old respond to sights and sounds.

“We are really interested in seeing how they know what is what,” said Erin Hannon, the supervising psychology professor of the lab. “We want to see how music and language are or are not related.”

In the studies, the infants sit on a parent’s lap and listen to different types of music while looking at images on display. Hannon and her colleagues measure how long the infants look at and stay interested in certain displays.

“We found that most babies liked to look at images longer when they were associated with music that they were familiar with and liked,” Hannon said.

She added, “Most of the infants preferred music from their own cultures.”

Hannon talked about some of the differences in how infants perceive music in language as opposed to adults.

“Adults learn to ignore tone and melody in language,” Hannon said. “But babies, when they are young, see melody as important and take notice of it in people’s speech patterns. This poses the question of ‘Is the brain wired to see language and music as one or separately?’”

Joel Snyder, professor of cognitive neuroscience in psychology, explained how the brain responds to sounds.

“Humans convert sound energy into neural-electrical signals in the ears and the neural signals are sent to different areas of the brain before reaching the primary auditory cortex,” Snyder said.

He explained that music in particular engages the auditory system in a major way because it activates areas of the brain involved in movement and emotion.

Snyder went on to describe how he believes infants learn about music and different rhythmic patterns.

Snyder said that very young infants begin learning about the music around them even before birth. They become familiar with pieces of music they hear and begin to learn more abstract information about the rules that are common in their culture’s music in terms of melodies, harmonies and rhythms.

Hannon and Snyder talked about culture and the affect it has on infants’ cognitive development.

“We are interested in the brain and cognitive abilities, how culture shapes what we know about music and language and how children benefit from learning about their own cultures and other cultures,” Hannon said.

“Since different cultures have different musical styles, infants of different cultures internalize different musical rules,” Snyder said. “But there certainly are a lot of commonalities between music of different cultures too, so it’s not as if infants of different cultures have completely different experiences.”

Hannon explained how she believes the auditory cognition and development lab will help contribute to the general knowledge about infant and child development.

“There is a big hole in the current knowledge that we have about music. The more that people understand about it, the more they can benefit from it. Learning about how infants perceive and interpret music will help us to see how they learn about language and various other things,” Hannon said.

Snyder described how he believes parents can promote healthy cognitive development in their infants through music.

“I think it’s good to expose children to a lot of music, encourage them to dance and sing and make music themselves, talk to them about the style and emotion and instruments in music and make it all fun,” Snyder said.

Results from the auditory cognition and development lab studies will be released later this year.

UNLV lab studies links between music, child development

November 6th, 2011 Las Vegas Review Journal

At just 9 months of age, Keira O’Brien already is quite the astute music listener.

Not that she’s particularly aware of it. All Keira — a cute, friendly kid who obviously loves nothing more than getting out of the house to meet some total strangers — is doing is sitting on her mother’s lap and watching tiny faces of Elmo from “Sesame Street” emerge from the top bar of an animated T.

But as she watches — and here’s where Keira’s nascent music-listening skills are kicking in — she’s anticipating the side of the bar from which Elmo will emerge, based on the melodies she hears right before it happens.

That’s pretty impressive for someone her age, notes Erin Hannon, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who has been studying the links between music and child development for about a decade.

While most adults probably take music for granted, Hannon suspects it plays a role in everything from a child’s language development to the development of motor skills to even how children adapt to the culture in which they live.

At UNLV’s Auditory Cognition and Development Lab, “we do all kinds of research,” Hannon says, “but most of it focuses on what children know about sound and how they learn about music and language.”

And, she adds, “we think music is important, especially early on.”

Mothers seem to intuitively understand it. Think, for example, of the sing-songy way in which many moms talk to their babies.

“I think there are probably some interesting discoveries to be made about how mothers use music to optimize learning during infancy,” says Hannon, whose own artistic resume includes playing the piano during high school, singing in ensembles during college and now dancing for fun.

Keira and her mom, Lahaina O’Brien, stopped by to participate in a study that explores whether infants are able to discriminate among, categorize and group different melodies. Keira and O’Brien take seats facing a large screen. On that screen, they’ll watch animated images of a ball entering the bottom stem of a T-shaped figure. The ball then will exit the T on either end of the upper bar, turning into the face of Elmo as it exits.

However, each rising ball also will be accompanied by one of several five-note melodies, each of which has a specific “melodic contour,” or “the shape of the melody,” as made up of rising versus falling pitches, Hannon says. “Usually, when we don’t know a song very well, the first thing we pick up is that contour.”

With melodies that share similar melodic contours, the ball-turned-Elmo will exit the T on the right side of the crossbar. With melodies that share opposite melodic contours, Elmo will exit on the left.

“We train (infants) to expect Elmo to emerge, depending on the melody,” Hannon says. “Then, what we look for is the anticipatory gaze toward the location where Elmo is supposed to come out.”

The goal, Hannon says, is “to find out whether babies of a certain age have a sort of categorization for melody, such as down-and-up or up-and-down. That might seem simple to you, but it’s actually a level of abstraction animals can’t deal with.”

Keira, sitting on her mom’s lap, views a total of 57 slides while lab manager Parker Tichko and Hannon watch on a monitor that enables them to see Keira’s gaze. By the end of the session, when Keira has become antsy enough to call it a day, she has, in several cases, seemed to anticipate where Elmo would appear based on the melodies she heard.

This particular study is one of several being conducted at UNLV that are designed to offer clues about how children process and learn how to use language. Hannon says children are recruited for this study and others through a variety of sources, including referrals from parents who already are in the program to mommy mixers and other events around town.

“We’re looking for, basically, children 2 months to 12 years,” Hannon says. For information about participating, visit Hannon’s website (

O’Brien says she learned about the research through a mommy mixer and volunteered because the sessions are a good opportunity for Keira to meet new people and become accustomed to new environments. This marked the second trial in which Keira has participated, and O’Brien says Keira seems to enjoy them.

“She enjoys getting out and seeing new people,” O’Brien says, and likes playing with the toys in the next room, too.

“We try to make it as fun as we can,” Hannon says. “We try to make it an experience in the same way as an outing.”

But while this has been just a fun afternoon out for Keira, the research in which she’s assisting can help to discover how music helps to shape children. It may, in fact, even give cause to believe that cuts in funding for arts and music education are, Hannon says, “very shortsighted.”

“OK, we want to improve kids’ academic skills. That would help our society in general,” Hannon says. “But we really don’t understand the long-term benefits of musical behavior.

“So I think until we know more about the potential benefits of music, we’re wasting an opportunity.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at or 702-383-0280.

Joel Snyder on Auditory and Visual Rhythm Perception

Stanford University Presentation

We’ve got rhythm! But how?

I’m pleased to introduce Joel Snyder to the CCRMA community. Joel is studying the mechanisms we use to track rhythm. We can bop to either a visual or an auditory rhythm. But do the two modalities use the same mechanism, or do they track their rhythms separately? How do the clock(s) work?

Who: Joel Snyder (UNLV)

What: Auditory and Visual Rhythm Perception

When: Friday Feb 1, 2013 at 1:15PM

Where: CCRMA Seminar Room (Upstairs at the Knoll)

Joel will be visiting Stanford on Friday. Let me know if you would like to meet with him and talk about your common interests. I’ll set up a schedule.

Title: “Auditory and visual rhythm perception”

Musical skills are usually considered to rely mostly on auditory and motor processing. However, musical information can also be gathered from vision and touch, raising questions about how much these non-auditory senses might contribute to musical behavior. The perception and production of timing patterns is one musical skill that has been studied extensively in both the visual and auditory modalities, providing hints about the extent to which vision might contribute to rhythm perception and also about the fundamental neural mechanisms of timing. My talk will therefore attempt to synthesize research that addresses the following questions: Is auditory-based timing for time intervals relevant to music better than visual-based timing for the same sized intervals? How robust are any observed differences to various moderating factors? To the extent that there are differences between auditory- and visual-based timing, what theories can best explain the differences and how can we test these theories? Finally, how does the comparison between auditory and visual timing inform us about an important issue in the literature, namely whether there are central timing mechanisms in the brain that compute time for all the senses as opposed to modality-specific timing mechanisms?

Bio: Dr. Snyder received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Cornell University and was a post-doctoral fellow at University of Toronto and Harvard University before starting the Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at UNLV. He is an expert on auditory perception and its neurological basis and has published numerous empirical studies and literature reviews in top psychology and neuroscience journals. His research has been supported by UNLV, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Army Research Office. Dr. Snyder’s research accomplishments were recognized with the 2009 Samuel Sutton Award for Early Distinguished Contribution to Human ERPs and Cognition.

Wisdom Research Forum

Wisdom Research Forum: “Effects of meditation….” by Joel Snyder, Phd & Jason Holland, PhD
“Effects of meditation on cognitive function, wisdom, and well-being in older adults”

Presentation by Associate Professor of Psychology, Joel Snyder, PhD and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Jason Holland, PhD from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas at the University of Chicago Wisdom Research Forum on May 8, 2015
Facilitated by Howard C. Nusbaum, PhD