Monday, 12 August 2013

The Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC 2013)

I just got back from attending my first SMPC conference here in Toronto. This biennial meeting of researchers investigating everything there is to learn about music cognition and perception was hosted by Ryerson University. A variety of researchers showed up this year, with substantial representative coming from labs in Japan, Germany, Slovenia, (as well as various other countries in Europe), the U.K., many different institutions in the U.S. as well as a large Canadian contingent.

This years conference offered many great sessions from perceptual research (pitch, timber, beat perception, neural imaging and modeling) to musical analysis, theory and sociocultural analyses. In addition to this, there were plenty of poster depicting the latest and greatest in music research coming out of many great labs. I myself presented a most discussing one of the projects our lab has been working on. 
 Here is the poster I presented:

SPMC 2013 Poster

Presenting was a great experience, it was a busy few hours, and I got a great chance to discuss my findings and theories with some of the leading researchers in the field! I met several young researcher and was able to gain good insight into the state of affairs in music cognition research.

The experience left me wishing this conference was an annual event, and not a biennial one. Looking forward to SMPC 2015!


Monday, 15 July 2013

Generating High Quality Plots in Matlab

Hey all, 

       Recently I have been dabbling with generating plots in Matlab in order to present some of my current data, and being a beginner to Matlab, and coding in general, I have come across a few useful tricks, although with the flexibility that Matlab offers, I have surely only scratched the surface in terms of making high quality graphs!

Dots Per Inch (DPI)

       When saving a plot in Matlab, there are several ways to go. You can of course run your code, generate your plot and then save it manually within the figure GUI that will automatically pop up; however for the most automation and control of your end product, it is best to "print" (save is this instance) your figure using a bit of code. 

print -dpng -r600 testplot600.png

       Now here is where you can go wild formatting your figure to various parameters (from RGB/CMYK/Black & White, to resolution, output file type, printer selection...etc). For a more complete list of the available parameters and options just type in:

help print

...and you will get a good explanation of how to use the print command. 

       The command "-dpng" specifies the output file type. Here you can select from a multitude of image file types (i.e. jpeg, bmp, tiff...etc) or other file types such as PDF's. 

       The command "testplot600" specifies the output file name. 

       The command "-r600" specifies the DPI value. A higher DPI value results in a higher resolution image, making edges smoother and the overall aesthetic more appealing. Here are some examples of different DPI values (150, 300, 600, 900 dpi)

150 DPI

300 DPI

600 DPI

900 DPI

       The difference between the 150-300 DPI figures and the 600 DPI figure is quite noticeable  whereas the difference between that and the 900 DPI figure is a little more subtle. The image is crisper, however it is worth noting that the higher quality you render your images, the longer it will take to process.. however this is well worth the extra few moments in order to get the best quality image in your manuscript, poster, presentation..etc. You can in fact choose to render your images with an even higher DPI value, however the difference get less and less noticeable  until there is in fact no noticeable difference to be seen, as viewing monitor have a maximum resolution. At this point though, your image will surely be satisfactory. 

A note about the shaded error regions in the sample data above.

       Some of you may be interested in using similar shaded areas in your plots, they are a great alternative to typical error-bars, and I believe offer a clearer visual representation of the data's variance and in comparing different data. To get the above figures I utilised a function called "shadedErrorBar.m" found on Matlab Central's File Exchange written by Rob Campbell ( ) .

       As I mentioned, there is way more that you can do in generating your figures. These tips will help you render high quality images easily, and in the format you desire!


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Come Dance with Me: Movement Control in Brain and Body. McMaster Institute for Music and the\ Mind NeuroMusic Conference

A few weeks ago, I experienced my first taste of true academia a poster session!! This may not be the most glamorous or significant achievement in a student/researchers career, but as it was my first contribution to the scientific world, it was pretty meaningful!

The conference started off with 2 great talks from Dr. Gammon Earhart and Dr. Jessica Phillips-Silver. Dr. Phillips-Silver discussed her research involving subject "Matthieu" who has been labelled as "Beat-deaf". This was a fascinating talk about this unique subject who is totally unable to move his body to any beat within a musical context. His abilities to move to a pure beat (metronome) seems to be unimpaired. What makes this even more interesting is that Matthieu seems to be the only person that has been observed with this deficit! Because of this, Dr. Philips-Silver's research on beat-deafness has to date been exclusively a case-study. As such, she hopes to find more subjects with this disorder in order to be able to normally investigate it as a psychological/neural disorder.

Dr. Gammon Earhart discussed her research in following groups of Parkinson's Disease (PD) as they routinely attended dance therapy (DT) sessions. The most interesting finding from her research that I took away from her talk, was that PD patients who participated in the dance therapy (as opposed to traditional movement therapies) had prolonged benefits from the DT even after they stopped attending the sessions! She also touched on additional benefits of DT, such as improved mood with social interactions, improved physical shape with routine exercise, and how these factors play back into the improved PD symptoms.

This was followed by my highlight of the day; the poster session! It was only scheduled for 2 hours, a fact that I wouldn't have minded prior to presenting my poster, but by the end, I found that I would have liked to be able to share my work with more people who simply didn't have time to get to all the posters. In general, people were very interested in my presentation, and the whole labs research in general! In addition to people blatantly telling me this, I also picked up on this since almost everyone who stopped at my poster waited to hear the entire story, and were all interested to know where we were going with the research. I got some great feedback from Steven Brown, and traded contact information with a woman (MD) who works in a sports rehabilitation center

The final talk was given by Dr. Emily Cross. She discussed several lines of research she has/is conducting, all of which involving creative performance and its perception. This was a great talk, she discussed "how our individual experiences shape the way we perceive and learn by watching others"; including a Action Observation Network (AON), and research involving stop motion toys simulating the movement of a human dancer (and vice versa).

The whole day was a great success, and I think the "crew" from our lab did a great job representing our research and spreading the word about the hard work we have all be putting in!