Department Blog

Health Sciences Libraries


August 21st, 2009 by


This year I got the chance to be involved again in the “Summer Scrubs & Beyond”, a three-day intensive program for fifty high schoolers from three schools in Sacramento (last year there were thirty or so), with a general focus on neuroscience throughout the classes and lectures. My class, an hour each day, was “reading and writing”. I tried to make the instruction as general as possible so the students could take the principles with them to apply to some other subjects.

Standard MRI

Standard MRI


To help accomplish this I gave them, the first day, a research article about MRI scanning of the brain during direct perception of musical chords in different modes and how that correlated to emotional response. We went through the article on day two to see how it demonstrated medical research and writing principles.


My general goals were to teach them

·      the broad scope and flow of medical research.

·      how research ends up in journal articles.

·      how to read a journal article.

·      looking up unknown words in dictionaries and online

·      some principles of medical jargon—Greek and Latin roots and combining forms.

·      how articles are abstracted.


At the end of the second session, I gave them a second article in the same general subject, from which the abstract had been removed. Their assignment was to write an abstract.


I gave them some guidelines: an abstract should be about 5% of the length of the article, and it should tell the reader.

·      What they were trying to discover;

·      Why the study needed to be done:

·      How did they go about it, and

·      What did they learn in the end.


The third day we went over the second article, reinforced some of the points we learned in the previous days, and talked about the abstract.


The response of the students was remarkably encouraging. There were very few blank stares during class, lots of questions, several students willing (or even eager) to participate; and fair number of the students did the assignment and wrote an abstract for the article.


The Articles:


I. Khalfa, S., D. Schon, et al. (2005). “Brain regions involved in the recognition of happiness and sadness in music.” Neuroreport 16(18): 1981-4.

Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to test for the lateralization of the brain regions specifically involved in the recognition of negatively and positively valenced musical emotions. The manipulation of two major musical features (mode and tempo), resulting in the variation of emotional perception along the happiness-sadness axis, was shown to principally involve subcortical and neocortical brain structures, which are known to intervene in emotion processing in other modalities. In particular, the minor mode (sad excerpts) involved the left orbito and mid-dorsolateral frontal cortex, which does not confirm the valence lateralization model. We also show that the recognition of emotions elicited by variations of the two perceptual determinants rely on both common (BA 9) and distinct neural mechanisms.


II. Pallesen, K. J., E. Brattico, et al. (2005). “Emotion processing of major, minor, and dissonant chords: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study.” Ann N Y Acad Sci 1060: 450-3.

Musicians and nonmusicians listened to major, minor, and dissonant musical chords while their BOLD brain responses were registered with functional magnetic resonance imaging. In both groups of listeners, minor and dissonant chords, compared with major chords, elicited enhanced responses in several brain areas, including the amygdala, retrosplenial cortex, brain stem, and cerebellum, during passive listening but not during memorization of the chords. The results indicate that (1) neural processing in emotion-related brain areas is activated even by single chords, (2) emotion processing is enhanced in the absence of cognitive requirements, and (3) musicians and nonmusicians do not differ in their neural responses to single musical chords during passive listening.


About the image:

The public domain image was made available through Wikipedia.