My work is devoted to understanding the power of music to help understand the mysteries of the brain
and how music can help in the development and healing of the brain.

Tzyy-Ping IversenWhat's New:

  • How Do Brains Make Music? (Closer to Truth PBS interview series)
    Interviews with John Iversen, Mark Tramo, Diana Deutsch, and Elizabeth Margulis. For four other interviews (including Can Music Probe Mentality? And Can the Mind Heal the Body?), click here.

John Iversen is a cognitive neuroscientist studying what music can teach us about the general functions of the brain. He is currently an Associate Research Scientist at UC San Diego in the Institute for Neural Computation, and an Associate Director of the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience. After undergraduate studies in Physics at Harvard, John received graduate degrees in Philosophy of Science and in Speech at Cambridge, and received a PhD in Speech and Hearing Science from MIT. After a decade at The Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, he joined UCSD. His work has focused on the study of rhythm perception and production in music and language, spanning behavioral and neuroscience approaches. Woven through this work is a desire to understand how we actively shape our perceptions of the world.

His work has addressed the role of culture in rhythm perception, if rhythm perception is specially tied to the auditory sense, and brain mechanisms involved in generating the perceived beat in music. In particular, he has focussed on understanding the way in which the motor system plays a necessary role in shaping our perceptions. He has had the opportunity too apply this work towards applications to medicine and education. He is currently directing the SIMPHONY project at UCSD, a longitudinal study of the effect of music training on children's brain and cognitive development, as well as music intervention studies in schools. John draws from a background in physics and neuroscience and a life-long interest in percussion to develop new methods for real-world neuroscience and Mobile Brain/Body Imaging (MoBI). In addition to work on music, John has led additional projects using MoBI to study human navigation and complex skill learning in the real-word and VR.

Research projects have included studies of

  1. The impact of music training on a child's brain and cognitive development
  2. The mechanisms and evolutionary changes enabling us to hear 'the beat'in music and dance
  3. How the motor system is involve even in listening to music
  4. How we can measure interpersonal interactions through group brain dynamics
  5. How the brain learns to navigate freely through space
  6. How the brain learns complex motor skills such as juggling, both in the real world and in realistically simulated reduced gravity.