I’m trying to understand how memory works at the 'front end' as information is entered into our brains.

Andrea Halpern

For Andrea Halpern, music is more than a hobby, it's also her area of research. A cognitive psychologist, she has been a leader in the field of music perception, as well as a singer with the Susquehanna Valley Chorale.

Halpern's research has focused on studying music perception and memory. This area allows researchers to ask interesting questions such as how ordinary people can remember hundreds of familiar tunes yet find it difficult to learn a small set of unfamiliar tunes even over a short time. Comparing musicians and nonmusicians on these sorts gives her some insight into how specific training relates to memory.

She has also examined which areas of the brain are responsible for auditory processing using the tools of cognitive neuroscience, such as functional magnetic brain imaging. She has found that many of the brain areas active when we perceive music are also active when we imagine music. As she says, "the idea that we can 'hear' a song in our heads has physiological legitimacy to some extent."

Since arriving at Bucknell in 1982, Halpern has mentored more than 100 students, involving them in her research. In 2004, she was named a Council on Undergraduate Research Fellow, which honors two faculty members per year for mentoring undergraduate researchers. In 2009, she was one of the two initial recipients of the Scadden Faculty Scholar Award.

Teaching Areas

  • Cognition
  • Neuropsychology
  • Issues in behavioral research

Research Interests

  • Cognition
  • Imagining and remembering nonverbal material such as music
  • Cognitive aging
  • Neural correlates of memory and imagery

Recent Publications

  • Zatorre, R. J., Halpern, A. R., & Bouffard, M. (2010). Mental reversal of imagined melodies: A role for the posterior parietal cortex. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 775-789.
  • Lucas, B.L., Schubert, E., & Halpern, A. R. (2010).  Perception of emotion in sounded and imagined music. Music Perception, 27, 399-412.
  • Halpern, A.R.  & Bartlett, J. C. (2011).  The persistence of musical memories: A descriptive study of earworms. Music Perception, 28, 425-431.
  • Johnson, S. K. & Halpern, A. R. (2012). Semantic priming of familiar tunes. Memory and Cognition.

Updated March 28, 2012

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