During my eight weeks in Rio de Janeiro, I worked on two fascinating projects in the D’Or Institute.
I first became involved in a research project called EmoCode, investigating the link between music and emotion. We all experience emotions while listening to music, but are these music-evoked emotions analogs of naturally occurring emotions? For example, I can listen to a sad piece of music, perceive that the music itself is conveying sad emotions, but actually be feeling a pleasure response to an enjoyed stimulus. Using fMRI and EEG, the project hopes to map the neural correlates of various music-evoked emotions and compare them to known regions of activation associated with the corresponding natural emotions. My work on this project has laid a great foundation for my planned project with the Honors in the Arts program this coming year.
Unexpectedly, I was also introduced to a neuropsychologist who works with psychopathy at the D’Or Institute. He had just begun working with a patient who was reportedly “cured” of psychopathy after surviving a gunshot to the head. This rare case of salutary changes following frontal lobe damage gave us the opportunity to explore regions of the frontal cortex related to pro-social behaviors. I helped interview the patient and write up a case report, which should be published soon. After this case, I have cultivated an interest in neuropsychology, and am thinking about pursuing it in medical school.
My experience was incredibly enriching both culturally and intellectually. I have fallen in love with Brazilian music and the soft sounds of sung Portuguese. I also met some of the warmest, kindest people I have ever known. My trip has inspired me to search for more opportunities to return to Brazil and continue studying Portuguese.