Research Interests

I am currently a 5th year doctoral student in the Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program at Drexel University. My research is interdisciplinary in nature as I am supported by the Music and Entertainment Technology Lab (ECE) and the Creativity Research Lab (PSYC). The focus of my work is music cognition, specifically with regard to the cognitive processes underlying creativity in music improvisation for expert and amateur jazz musicians. I have contributed to various projects with a wide-scope including: music and emotion, creative cognition / insight, non-invasive brain stimulation and creativity, music technology and STEAM education. I also have received extensive training in EEG, fMRI, and fNIR imaging techniques.

In addition to my career as a researcher, I am a musician, composer, and band leader, and I have been performing with my band, The Space Cats , and other groups for the past 15 years. I am currently studying jazz with Steve Beskrone at University of the Arts. I previously taught 6th grade in the Philadelphia School District and have an M.S. in Teaching and Instruction. I am a formally trained bassist and have been composing on piano since I was a child.

My passion for improvisational music, neuroscience, and Flow has deeply inspired my graduate and plans for future research. 

View my Curriculum Vitae


Education

Ph.D. Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Drexel University (Anticipated Fall 2017)

M. S. in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Drexel University (2015)

M.S. in Education - Teaching & Instruction, Drexel University (2009)

B.A. in Psychology, Emory University (2005)


Projects

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Jazz Improvisation: Evidence for a dual-process theory of creative cognition.

My masters and dissertation work examines music improvisation from a dual-process model framework of creativity, in which, recruitment of Type 1 (associative, automatic, implicit) and Type 2 (controlled, focused) processes have differential effects for musicians of various expertise levels. These experiments attempt to pinpoint the neural and cognitive processes underlying enhanced performance in the ecologically valid domain of jazz improvisation. [Paper] 


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Non-invasive Brain Stimulation (tDCS), Creativity, and Cognitive Control:

In collaboration with Dr. Sharon Thompson-Schill and Dr. Roy Hamilton's Laboratory for Cognition and Neural Stimulation at the University of Pennsylvania, I have led multiple projects examining the effects of tDCS on musical (jazz improvisation) and verbal creativity (in press). Brain stimulation reverses the traditional neuroimaging paradigm, examining perceivable changes in behavior / performance as a weak electrical current is administered, targeting specific brain regions and functions. [Paper]


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Harmonic Surprise and Music Preference

Scott Miles from Georgetown University and I have developed a three phase project in an attempt to dissociate the neural activity associated with enjoying music when it is harmonically surprising versus familiar. Phase-1 , a statistical analysis of harmony of the McGill Billboard Corpus, reveals statistically different patterns of surprise between the top and bottom charting songs. Phase-2 is currently underway and includes a behavioral human-subjects experiment with novel musical stimuli to see harmonic surprise's contribution to music preference. Phase-3 will be a continuation of Phase-2 with the inclusion of fMRI. [Paper]


J-DISC MIR & Jazz Cognition:

As Project Research Manager for the J-DISC task force, we begin to explore basic structural features using signal processing and machine learning for the sake of discovery and access to recordings. We examine the cognitive foundation of improvisation in jazz solos. We quantitatively evaluate phrase types and patterns, learned and rote strategies vs. 'spontaneous creation', and brain activity among jazz musicians. The work builds on a growing literature  of the neuroscience of musical improvisation. [Paper]

 


STEAM Education Program Manager:

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My graduate work has partially been supported by organizations and foundations that contribute to our STEAM education programs for Philadelphia middle- and high-school students. With experience as a former public school educator, I have led curriculum development and instruction for the Summer Music Technology (SMT) program at Drexel University, a week long camp that teaches hands-on STEM concepts through the scope of music and music technology. In 2016, I organized, directed, and piloted the Summer STEAM 2016 in partnership with the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. This expanded the "A" in STEAM beyond music into other domains including: game design and programming, visual arts, kinesthetics and movement, and athletics. [Paper]

 


Contact Info: Drosen@drexel.edu