Please tell us about yourself
I am a Clinical Neuropsychologist by profession, and a musician by interest and passion. I am working as an Associate Professor and Consultant in Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuro Science Center and faculty in-charge of the Music Cognition Laboratory, Department of Clinical Psychology at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Benglauru.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and fascinating career? What did you study?
Human mind and behavior has been a topic of interest since my early student days. I pursued this area of interest formally by completing higher education in Clinical Psychology. In addition, I have been a student of Hindustani Classical music (vocal) since my early childhood days. While pursuing my Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, I was keen to bring the two areas of interest – Clinical Psychology and Music – together, since the impact of music on human psyche intrigued me all along.
Tell us about your career path
I continued to pursue my training in Clinical Psychology and specialize in the area of Clinical Neuropsychology from India’s premier Institute, NIMHANS, Bengaluru. While working with patients having psychiatric and neurological conditions, the concept of neural plasticity, the veritable nature of the brain and the core rationale behind neuropsychological rehabilitation fascinated me, even further. I worked towards developing cost-effective hospital-based and home-based cognitive remediation modules for patients with schizophrenia as part of my M.Phil and PhD research work. In 2007, I participated in a conference of Society for Music Perception and Cognition in Montreal, Canada. During this visit, I completed a one-month long internship at the International Brain Music and Sound Laboratory (BRAMS) Montreal, Canada with Dr. Isabelle Peretz and Dr. Robert Zatorre. This fueled the desire to pursue this area of research even further. It gave me the clarity to pursue music from a neuroscientific perspective and use music as the method in neuropsychological rehabilitation. Subsequently, research collaborations with Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, Dr Megan Curtis, and Dr Emmanuel Bigand strengthened my ideas further. From April 2009 to April 2012, I worked as a Senior Scientific Officer at NIMHANS and it was during this period that I started carrying out systematic research work in the area of music and cognition, neuromusicology. With complete support from the Institute, I was able to work towards establishing the Music Cognition laboratory at NIMHANS, which is the first of its kind in the country.
What do you do?
Research has been carried out from the laboratory in the area of musical emotion, music and language, rhythm perception and effect of music on other cognitive processes in individuals with and without formal musical training and clinical populations such as Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, patients undergoing spinal surgery and other neurological conditions using behavioral, electrophysiological and functional MRI methods. I strongly believe that carrying out systematic research examining the effects of music in neurological and neuropsychological rehabilitation is necessary to propose intervention methods based on music. I therefore underwent a training program in Neurologic Music Therapy and became an ‘Affiliate Professional Member’ of ‘The Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy’ under the guidance of Dr. Michael Thaut (Director, MAHRC, University of Toronto, Canada)
Music is a ubiquitous phenomenon and the rich tradition of Indian classical music is an unexplored area from a neuroscientific perspective. There is an increasing amount of research highlighting the need to address cognitive deficits in various neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions, since cognitive deficits determine functional recovery and overall functionality. From a neuroscientific perspective, music is considered as biological phenomenon which engages a host of cognitive, sensorimotor and language functions thereby lending itself as a useful method in neurological rehabilitation of the very same functions.
What do you love about your job?
The CPHI Intermediate Fellowship has given me the opportunity to hone my skills as a clinician, and as a researcher under the mentorship of Prof.Dr. med. Gottfried Schlaug (Director, Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory, Stroke Recovery Laboratory, and Division Chief, Cerebrovascular Diseases Associate Professor of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School), a leading researcher in the field of Neurology and Neuromusicology. The fellowship has provided me with an opportunity to work closely with my senior colleagues who will be my collaborators in this work – Dr. Pramod K Pal (Professor of Neurology, NIMHANS) , Dr G. Venkatasubramanian (Professor of Psychiatry, NIMHANS) and Dr. Jitender Saini (Additional Professor, Neuroimaging and Interventional Radiology, NIMHANS). I am thankful for this opportunity to pursue my interest to bring the two areas of my interest together, towards helping patients with neurological conditions, in particular, Parkinson’s disease. It is surely the beginning, but worth a journey to look forward to.