Visit the Music Lab with your baby

Participate with your baby!

We are recruiting expecting parents and parents with babies for science research about infants and music.

You can participate from anywhere in the world! Sign up with your contact details below and we'll contact you when you are eligible to participate.

learn more

If you are reading this, you are probably doing so on a device that plays music. You are probably able to hear and understand that music. You probably can also produce music of your own, even if you've never had music lessons. You probably engage with music on a regular basis, regardless of your cultural background, location in the world, or socioeconomic status. You have probably been this way your whole life.

In the Music Lab, we're figuring out why the human mind is designed in such a way that all of the above is true. We do basic cognitive science experiments with many different populations and with people who live all over the world, including in small-scale societies. We also work on large corpus studies of ethnographies and field recordings from the Natural History of Song project, which we host.

The Music Lab is based jointly at the University of Auckland (in New Zealand, as a part of the School of Psychology) and Yale University (in New Haven, as a part of the Yale Child Study Center).

On this site, you can learn more about us and about our work, read our papers, and participate in experiments online!

news

  • Our PI, Samuel Mehr, was awarded the NZ Prime Minister's MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize!
  • If you'd like to hear about our current research, this interview on Radio New Zealand includes some discussion of our newest studies.
  • Collaborator Elika Bergelson discussed our research into language experience and music processing with Marco Werman on Public Radio International's The World.
  • Our cross-cultural research on infant-directed speech and song was covered on the front page of the New York Times, on the TODAY show, and in many other spots worldwide.
  • We've moved — after 5 years at Harvard, we have transitioned our citizen-science platform to Yale University and our brick-and-mortar lab to the University of Auckland (New Zealand).

people

Samuel Mehr

Samuel Mehr

Principal Investigator (website)
Sam is an Eastman-trained musician and Harvard-trained scientist interested in how and why human minds are designed to perceive and produce music. He grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has lived in Rochester, Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge (USA); Wellington (New Zealand); Montréal (Canada); and now Auckland (New Zealand). You can follow Sam on Bluesky, where he often posts about being an academic dad.
Courtney Hilton

Courtney Hilton

Postdoc/Research Fellow
Courtney began his career as a musician before accidentally becoming a scientist. He grew up in the rural Australian town of Gidgegannup, and studied at the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. After his PhD, he joined the lab as a postdoc at Harvard and now works at the University of Auckland. He otherwise makes music, art, cooks, does stuff in nature, and hangs out with his two cats Dave and Gidge.
Eun Cho

Eun Cho

Postdoc
Eun is a music educator specializing in early childhood music and a researcher, interested in interdisciplinary research that encompasses music, education, psychology, and culture. Since the completion of her DMA in music education (University of Southern California), she has been leading various research projects on the psychological aspects of everyday musical experiences in diverse populations. Aside from being an academic, she is a happily married mom with two kids, based in sunny California.
Logan James

Logan James

Affiliated Postdoc
Logan is a biologist who investigates acoustic communication in animals. He completed his PhD with Jon Sakata (McGill University) studying biases in how birds learn and produce songs. Currently, he investigates call preferences in frogs with Mike Ryan (UT Austin/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), as well as how frog communication signals vary across species. He has recently expanded his cross-species comparisons to analyze biases in acoustic perception in a range of species such as crickets, tree frogs, sparrows, and humans.
Rebecca Evans

Rebecca Evans

Affiliated Postdoc
Rebecca is a Research Fellow with the longitudinal cohort study Growing Up in New Zealand, responsible for the Family & Whānau domain. Her previous work in perinatal psychology (EPS Erasme, France) focused on mother-infant relationships, maternal speech, singing and inter-personal synchrony. Her PhD (Nanterre University, Paris) involved studying jazz improvisation and the socio-biological experience of playing ‘good time’ together. Her current research interests include music use and engagement in young tamariki and rangatahi (children and youth) of New Zealand, kapa haka, whanaungatanga (relationships), and music’s role in developing social bonds.
Mila Bertolo

Mila Bertolo

Graduate Student
Mila is a PhD student in Neuroscience at McGill University, working with Jon Sakata and Isabelle Peretz, and co-advised by Samuel Mehr. She works on questions about the origins of music, using tools from cross-cultural work, developmental psychology, and cross-species comparisons. You can follow her @mila_bertolo.
Jan Simson

Jan Simson

Graduate Student
Jan joined the Lab at the beginning of 2019 as a research intern before returning full-time after graduating from his bachelor’s. He is currently finishing up his master’s in Psychology/Behavioral Data Science at the University of Amsterdam and has written his thesis with the lab trying to better understand what it is that makes us like music. In his free time he enjoys bouldering and playing tennis as well as the occasional bike ride. You can follow him @_jansimson.
Lidya Yurdum

Lidya Yurdum

Graduate Student
Lidya is a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, co-supervised by Disa Sauter and Samuel Mehr. She studies the role of culture in human communication, focussing on non-verbal vocalisations and music. Lidya joined the Music Lab in 2019 as a summer RA, and has since continued to collaborate remotely from her new home in the Netherlands. She has a Research Masters in psychology from the University of Amsterdam. In her free time you can find her climbing/gymming/crocheting/baking (but definitely not running).
Marty Snarskis

Marty Snarskis

Graduate student
Marty (they/he) joined the University of Auckland PhD program in February 2023. They are working on The Natural History of Song project, a rich dataset with music from all over the world, as well studying social inferences in infants. They previously studied the computational neuroscience of decision-making and perception at the University of Rochester and, after graduating, managed a lab studying memory at the University of Chicago. Marty enjoys being eccentric, playing music and other arts, reading widely, and hugging trees!
Juliet Barry

Juliet Barry

Graduate student
Juliet is a PhD student in the psychology department at the University of Auckland researching pitch perception and language acquisition in infants. She received a degree in Linguistics and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked as a lab coordinator in the psychology department investigating the development of emotional regulation across childhood. Outside of the lab, Juliet enjoys ballet and swimming in the ocean.
Zoé Schelp

Zoé Schelp

Graduate Student
Zoé is a PhD student in psychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Auckland investigating anauralia, the inability to imagine sounds (a phenomenon like aphantasia, but for the ear). Her research is focusing on the effects of anauralia on verbal and non-verbal working memory. Outside of studies and teaching, she loves playing violin and guitar, reading, sewing and cooking/baking and winter sports.
Sorour Zekrati

Sorour Zekrati

Graduate Student
Sorour is a PhD candidate in linguistics at the University of Auckland. Her research focuses on pitch perception and examines the effect of conceptual metaphors on the way speakers of different languages (Persian and English) perceive and conceive pitch. Alongside her academic pursuits, Sorour enjoys graphic designing, learning new languages, reading psychology books, and listening to podcasts.
Sam (I-Chieh) Wei

Sam (I-Chieh) Wei

Graduate Student
Sam Wei, an engineering graduate from National Taiwan University, formerly served as a research assistant at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Specializing in signal processing and machine learning for audio, particularly AI in music creation, he is now a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland's School of Music. His research is dedicated to the ethical development of musical AI tools to assist musicians in safeguarding their intellectual property against unauthorized use.
Gage Quigley-Tump

Gage Quigley-Tump

Graduate Student
Gage is a PhD student in psychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Auckland, investigating auditory imagery. His research focuses on the physiological measurements of anauralia and auditory imagery. He enjoys playing guitar and listening to heavy metal.
Estelle Lai

Estelle Lai

Honours student
Estelle is an Honours student at the University of Auckland. She has a passion for psychology and music which has led her to join the Music Lab where she conducts research on the social implications of music. When she’s not studying, her interests outside of music include painting, reading, gaming and finding good places to eat.
Laurence Silk

Laurence Silk

Undergraduate intern
Laurence is completing a research internship at the music lab during his undergraduate degree where he is majoring in psychology at the University of Auckland. In his free time he loves running, hiking, snowboarding and almost anything involving spending time in the outdoors.
Lucas Oland

Lucas Oland

Undergraduate intern
Lucas is an undergraduate student at Yale University from Arizona who is beyond excited to travel to Auckland for a research internship with The Music Lab. His previous research focused on language network connectivity in Alzheimer’s patients using task-based fMRI. Outside of the lab, Lucas enjoys performing in musical theater and singing with his college a cappella group.

collaborators, past and present

We also work with many others on the Natural History of Song project: learn more at themusiclab.org/nhs.

alumni

Ekanem Ebinne
Research Assistant (2022-2023).

Rachel Yan
Affiliated grad student (2020-2022), currently a PhD student in Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Jingxuan Liu
Affiliated grad student (2020-2023), currently a PhD student at Columbia University.

Judy Lee
Research Assistant (2020-2021), currently a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Cambridge University.

Cody Moser
Affiliated grad student (2018-2022), currently a PhD student in Cognitive and Information Sciences the University of California, Merced, working in the Smaldino Lab.

Alex Mackiel
Research Assistant (2021), currently a PhD student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Chicago.

Liam Crowley
Honours student (2019-2021), currently a PhD student in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington.

Mila Bertolo
Lab manager (2019-2021) and summer intern (2018), currently a PhD student in Neuroscience at McGill University, working in the Sakata Lab

Anna Bergson
Summer intern (2019), currently practicing social work in Washington DC.

Brooke Milosh
Summer intern (2019), currently completing medical school at Hofstra University.

S. Atwood
Lab manager (2018-2019), currently a PhD student in Psychology at the Human Diversity Lab at Princeton University.

Constance Bainbridge
Research Assistant (2018-2020), currently a PhD student in Communication at the University of California, Los Angeles, working with Greg Bryant.

Julie Youngers
Summer intern (2018), currently working in the North Kansas City public schools.

Dylan Feng Xing
Summer intern (2018), as of August 2024 Dylan is completing a postdoc fellowship as a clinical psychologist at the Yale Health Center.

Kelsie Lopez
Summer intern (2018), currently a PhD student in the Plasticity in Neurodevelopment Lab with Dr. Laurel Gabard-Durnam in the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health.

Alma Bitran
Summer intern (2018), currently a PhD student at Rutgers University working in the DBT-RU practicum training site.

join

We are currently recruiting a postdoc (more information here) and a PhD student (more information here).

If you are interested in PhD study in our lab (separately from the above-advertised position), please contact Dr Mehr at sam@auckland.ac.nz with an expression of interest and a CV. We can support PhD applicants at the University of Auckland (in New Zealand) or at Yale, either in Psychology (if working jointly with a Psychology faculty member) or via the Child Study Center. Please note that funding for PhD study is competitive and may not be guaranteed, depending on the particulars of your application.

We do not currently have any open positions for full-time, salaried research assistants, but are able to host part-time RAs working in New Zealand or New Haven. If you are interested in such a position, for hourly pay; or if you would like to apply to work with us for academic credit (at the University of Auckland or at Yale) or work-study (at Yale), please contact us at musiclab@yale.edu. In general, we do not recruit volunteers, with the exception of students who are sponsored by their home institution to do an internship with us.

If you are a member of an underrepresented group in research, and interested in joining us, we can help you get funded with an NIH Diversity Supplement. Please get in touch with Dr Mehr at sam@auckland.ac.nz if you are interested in applying.

We are grateful to have received financial support from these organizations:

NIH
RSNZ
HDSI
Prime Minister's Science Prize
Auckland Faculty of Science
Dutch Research Council