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Sound Science: Researcher Investigates How Music Alters the Mind

Woman reclining on white carpet, relaxing and listening with headphones.

UT Dallas New Center

Stephen Fontenot

Dr. Yune S. Lee has seen the power of sound on the mind. While working as a composer of music for commercials, he was captivated by how the right tune can affect a listener’s mental state. Lee traded his work in the music industry for an academic career in neuroscience, which led him to The University of Texas at Dallas, where today he researches how rhythm helps focus the brain’s abilities to process language. With funding from private and public sources, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Lee hopes to find concrete neurological evidence for the beneficial effects that many people believe sound therapy can provide. “I am fascinated with the power of music — it’s something I experience on a daily basis,” he said. “In my old job, I had to make or find music to add to TV commercials. When we use different types of music, we get completely different impressions and emotions accompanying the same visuals. When they are perfectly harmonized, you get goosebumps.” Lee, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, recently received $200,000 in funding through an Intellectual Property Assignment/Sponsored Research Agreement (IPA/SRA) to investigate noninvasive brain stimulation via sound to improve cognitive and sensory function. He also has an active three-year, $411,000 grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders — a component of the NIH — to investigate the use of rhythm therapy to understand the neural mechanisms underlying aphasia, a language disorder leading to substantial difficulties in daily communication. Lee, who holds an appointment at UT Dallas’ Callier Center for Communication Disorders, said his dream of combining his two passions, music and neuroscience, dates to his undergraduate days as a biology major at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. “Then, while in graduate school at Dartmouth College, I was deeply immersed in the joy of auditory neuroscience and functional neuroimaging,” he said. “As a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, I delved into translational neuroscience and had hands-on experience with neurological disorders including aphasia, where you see some fascinating phenomena. One striking example is that patients with non-fluent aphasia can sing even if they have great trouble speaking.”

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“Combining these cutting-edge analytic techniques and neuroimaging methods, we aim to lay the groundwork on the impact of binaural beat on cognitive and language function.”Dr. Yune S. Lee, assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
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Yune S. Lee, PhD

Assistant Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Director of Speech, Language, and Music (SLAM) Laboratory


Related Information

Studying the Connection Between Speech, Language, and Music in the Brain

BrainHealth Investigator Dr. Yune Lee directs the auditory neuroscience lab in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing at The University of Texas at Dallas' School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Music: A Brain Enhancer?

Hear Dr. Yune Lee talk about his creative journey and discuss some of his findings on the ways music may affect our brains.

Neurological Music Therapy for Speech and Language Rehabilitation

Because many individuals with aphasia can sing even when they cannot talk, melodic-intonation therapy has been accepted as a viable aphasia therapy.