Cognitive neuroscience research
Just as a hammer is good for hitting nails and bad for making a sandwich, the shapes of our ideas determine
what we can do with them. I use brain imaging, behavioral experiments, and computational models to understand
what ideas with different shapes can and cannot do.
My past research has shown why music and movement are deeply connected and how conversation aligns our minds
and brains. My current work asks how we grasp the most gnarly and misshapen ideas, whose meanings depend on
relations between their parts. What kinds of minds must humans or machines have to understand language, music,
mathematics, and reason?
I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Dartmouth Social Systems Lab
advised by Professor Thalia Wheatley and
research associate in Psychology at Harvard University advised by Professors Joshua Greene and Leslie Valiant.
I completed my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, advised by Thalia Wheatley.
I am also a composer and performer on percussion and electronics, and was a founding
organizer of Indexical.
Please feel free to email me. I am also on Twitter.
- Sievers, B., Parkinson, C., Kohler, P.J., Hughes, J., Fogelson, S.V., & Wheatley, T. (in
Visual and auditory brain areas share a representational structure that supports emotion perception.
Current Biology, forthcoming. Open
data. Stimuli. Software. Open access preprint.
- Sievers, B., DiFilippis, E. (in press). Causal complexity demands community coordination.
Comment on Yarkoni (2021), The Generalizability Crisis. Behavioral and
Brain Sciences, forthcoming. Open access
- Sievers, B., Wheatley, T. (in press). Rapid dissonant grunting, or, But why does music sound the
way it does? Comment on Mehr et al. (2021), Origins of music in credible signaling, and Savage et al.
(2021), Music as a coevolved system for social bonding. Behavioral and
Brain Sciences, forthcoming. Open access preprint.
- Sievers, B., Welker, C., Hasson, U., Kleinbaum, A. M., Wheatley, T. (2020). How consensus-building
conversation changes our minds and aligns our brains. Open access
- Sievers, B., Momennejad, I. (2019). SAMPL: The Spreading Activation and Memory PLasticity Model. Open source implementation of SAMPL. Open access preprint.
- Sievers, B., Lee, C., Haslett, W., & Wheatley, T. (2019). A multi-sensory code for
emotional arousal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286. Data, code, and materials. Open access preprint.
- Levari, D. E., Gilbert, D.T., Wilson, T.D., Sievers, B., Amodio, D.M. & Wheatley, T. (2018). Prevalence-induced concept change in human
- Sievers, B., Parkinson, C., Walker, T., Haslett, W., & Wheatley, T. (2017). Low-level percepts
predict emotion concepts across modalities and cultures. Open access
- Wheatley, T. & Sievers, B. (2015). Toward a neuroscience of social resonance. In Greene,
Morrison & Seligman (Eds.) Positive
Neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Sievers, B., Polansky, L., Casey, M., & Wheatley, T. (2013). Music and movement share a dynamic
structure that supports universal expressions of emotion. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 110(1) 70–75. Software. Open access PDF.
- Parkinson, C., Kohler, P., Sievers, B., & Wheatley, T. (2012). Associations between auditory
pitch and visual elevation do not depend on language: Evidence from a remote population. Perception,
41, 854–861. PDF.
- Sievers, B. (2006). A young person’s guide to
the principles of music synthesis.
fmri_go is open source software for presenting
timelocked stimuli in an fMRI scanner and recording participant responses using PsychoPy. This software is in active development—use at your own risk.
Bouncing Ball is open source software for comparing
the dynamics of music and movement as described in Sievers, B., Polansky, L., Casey, M., & Wheatley, T.
(2013). Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(1), 70-75.
Morphological Metrics is a Ruby
implementation of metrics described in Larry
Polansky's article Morphological Metrics. Larry's work on Morphological Metrics is of interest
for anybody who wants to quantitatively compare contours; I came to it as a composer and continue to return
regularly as a scientist.
Ruby PCSet is a simple Ruby library for performing
musical pitch-class set theory operations. It has a few nice things which similar tools lack, including
evaluation of some properties described by Balzano (coherence, uniqueness) and Huron (aggregate dyadic