Cognitive neuroscientists are often masters in multiple fields, such as psychology, neurology, and anatomy. But some go even further by living a double life: scientists by day, rockers by night.
“Unlike submitting papers or grant applications, music is immediately satisfying.” -Earl Miller
Three bands made up of CNS members – The Amygdaloids, Pavlov’s Dogz, and The Shrinks – are playing this Sunday, on the occasion of the CNS annual meeting in New York. “Each of the band names is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the science that we do at our day jobs,” says Brad Postle, chair of the CNS 2016 program and guitar player of classic rock band Pavlov’s Dogz.
New York-based band the Amygdaloids, for example, includes Joseph LeDoux, known for his work on emotions and fear in the amygdala region of the brain. The band’s lyrics reference the mind, brain, and mental disorders.
“Unlike submitting papers or grant applications, music is immediately satisfying,” says Earl Miller, bass player for Pavlov’s Dogz who studies the neural basis for complex goal-directed behavior.
“For me, it is just about creating a fun environment for conference-goers so they can share enjoyable experiences and get to know one another better,” says Joel Voss, a drummer for Pavlov’s Dogz who researches memory in the hippocampus. Indeed, Postle says that Pavlov’s Dogz first coalesced around an open-mic pub night in conjunction with a small conference focused on memory research.
Says flutist and singer Paula Croxson whose research uses MRI to study memory: “Pavlov’s Dogz developed as a way for neuroscientists to connect through music as well as science – we are from all over the world and get together to play music when we find ourselves all in the same place.”
The concert this Sunday, Croxson says, will be an eclectic mix of jazz, original science-inspired rock, and fun rock covers. It’s a chance, she says, “for the CNS attendees to get together in an informal setting and unwind a bit.”
Iliyan Ivanov, guitarist for The Shrinks and a child and adolescent psychiatrist, calls the band’s sessions “jazz-therapy.” He and his band members “hope that our audience will render their own improvisations and discover emotional outlets as they listen to our music.”
In addition to the three bands playing this weekend, many of the musicians have other bands they play with on their home turfs, including NY-based Marlowe Grey, NY-based Supersmall, Boston-based What She Said, and Cambridge-based Violet Transmissions (and even a group called Untidy Naked Dilemma, which includes consciousness researcher Adrian Owen).
At least one band member has a connection between the day and night job: Jessica Grahn, a cellist who runs the Music and Neuroscience Lab at Western University in Ontario. But for many, it’s just a great creative outlet. “As a neuroscientist I find that creativity is an essential part of my life and work,” Croxson says.
“If I had to make some metaphor to my research, it would be that making science work well is much like making the hippocampus work well – it’s all about the connections,” Voss says.
-Lisa M.P. Munoz