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I am a PhD candidate in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab at Pennsylvania State University. My research interests include the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying music improvisation, developing ecologically valid creativity assessment tools, and using large-scale creativity studies to inform policy decisions in real-world settings. hannahmerseal.com
July 2019 - August 2022
- PhD Student
- I am a PhD candidate in the Cognitive area of Penn State's Department of Psychology. I am a member of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab, led by Dr. Roger Beaty. My primary research interests are the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying hierarchical melodic sequencing in jazz improvisation, creativity assessment in school settings, and links between creativity and indices of cultural well-being.
May 2018 - August 2018
- Research Assistant
- This summer position was funded via the Wheaton Fellows program for career development. I worked with Paige Hickey, Dr. Elizabeth Race, and Dr. Ani Patel to conduct research focused on music and memory, specifically neural features linked to rhythm and harmony that improve working and associative memory. I co-authored a published paper with this lab following the end of my research assistantship based on the work we completed over the summer.
January 2018 - May 2019
- Research Assistant
- I completed this research internship with Dr. Kate Eskine via Wheaton's Practicum in Psychology Research. I primarily conducted EEG data analysis in MATLAB/EEGLAB, experiment design, and data collection in studies relating to music listening in Alzheimer's patients, as well as to music's role in creativity through measures of divergent and convergent thinking.
Music improvisation is among the most complex creative behaviors, involving the simultaneous execution and integration of multiple cognitive processes in real-time in order to create new music in live performance. Yet, little is known about how jazz musicians reference and recombine a vast repository of learned musical sequences while improvising....
Line of research (in prep) using network science methods to study the organization of melodic sequences in memory
Time is a critical component of episodic memory. Yet it is currently unclear how different types of temporal signals are represented in the brain and how these temporal signals support episodic memory. The current study investigated whether temporal cues provided by low-frequency environmental rhythms influence memory formation. Specifically, we te...
Language production involves action sequencing to produce fluent speech in real-time, placing a computational burden on working memory that leads to sequencing biases in production. Here we examine whether these biases extend beyond language to constrain one of the most complex human behaviors: music improvisation. Using a large corpus of improvis...
Creativity research commonly involves recruiting human raters to judge the originality of responses to divergent thinking tasks, such as the alternate uses task (AUT). These manual scoring practices have benefited the field, but they also have limitations, including labor-intensiveness and subjectivity, which can adversely impact the reliability an...
The research on the network neuroscience of creativity assesses coordinated neural activity across multiple brain regions to examine how these regions dynamically interact to give rise to creative thinking and behavior. Of the brain’s several networks, two have consistently been implicated in the creativity neuroscience literature: the default netw...
Creative thinking is important for success in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Yet creativity in STEM is perhaps the most under-researched question in the creativity literature, with little known about the neurocognitive mechanisms supporting scientific creative thinking abilities, such as hypothesis generatio...
The associative theory posits that creativity relates to people’s ability to connect remote associations to form new ideas, based on the structure of their semantic memory. This theory has spurred several recent studies connecting semantic memory structure and associative thinking to creativity, capitalizing on advances in computational methods. To...
Music is a complex system consisting of many dimensions and hierarchically organized information-the organization of which, to date, we do not fully understand. Network science provides a powerful approach to representing such complex systems, from the social networks of people to modelling the underlying network structures of different cognitive m...
The rapid evolution of technology and automation today underscores the importance of understanding and facilitating human creativity. Although the psychological science of creativity is a relatively young field, significant progress has been made in recent years, and researchers are increasingly translating their work from the lab to real-world set...
Music is a complex system consisting of many dimensions and hierarchically organized information—the organization of which, to date, we do not fully understand. Network science provides a powerful approach to representing such complex systems, from the social networks of people to modelling the underlying network structures of different cognitive m...
Language production involves complex action sequencing to produce fluent speech in real-time, placing considerable constraints on working memory that lead to sequencing biases in production. Researchers have speculated that these biases may extend beyond language to other human behaviors involving action sequencing, but this claim has not been empi...
Language production involves complex action sequencing to produce fluent speech in real-time, placing considerable constraints on working memory that lead to sequencing biases in production. Researchers have speculated that these biases may extend beyond language to other human behaviors involving action sequencing, but this claim has not been emp...