Peter Cariani

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments
Faculty Bio E-Mail

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Peter Cariani is an intellectual, research scientist, and teacher. His research in auditory and theoretical neuroscience involves temporal codes and computations for pitch and rhythm, with other publications on cybernetics, biosemiotics, anesthesia and neural coding, emergence and creativity, and radical constructivism. Cariani has taught courses on the neuropsychology of music at Tufts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Boston Conservatory; auditory neuroscience at Boston University; and consciousness studies at Boston Conservatory.

Career Highlights

Publications include the following:

  • Cariani, P., and Delgutte, B. (1996). Neural correlates of the pitch of complex tones. I. Pitch and pitch salience. II. Pitch shift, pitch ambiguity, phase-invariance, pitch circularity, and the dominance region for pitch. Journal of Neurophysiology, 76(3), 1698–1734.
  • Cariani, P. (1999). Temporal coding of periodicity pitch in the auditory system: an overview. Neural Plast, 6(4), 147–172.
  • Cariani, P. (2002). Temporal codes, timing nets, and music perception. Journal of New Music Research, 30(2), 107–136.
  • Cariani, P. (2012). Creating new primitives in minds and machines. In J. McCormack and M. D'Inverno (Eds.), Computers and Creativity (pp. 395–430). New York: Springer.
  • Cariani, P. (2015). Sign functions in natural and artificial systems. In P. P. Trifonas (Ed.), International Handbook of Semiotics (pp. 917–950). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Cariani, P. (in press, 2018). Musical intervals, scales and tunings: auditory representations and neural codes. In P. J. Rentfrow and D. J. Levitin (Eds.), Foundations in Music Psychology (pp. 52). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, system science
  • M.S., State University of New York at Binghamton, systems science 
  • B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, biology
In Their Own Words

"Mainly, I try to provide my students with basic concepts and integrative conceptual frameworks from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience that will give them tools for deeper understanding of their art and of themselves that can serve them over their lifetimes. For the neuropsychology of music, basic questions involve why we listen (the many things music does for us), how we perceive it (auditory-neural processing), how music works to bring about its diverse psychological effects, and ultimately why it has these effects on us. For consciousness studies, the questions involve how neural processes in our brains give rise to our conscious experiences: all that we think, feel, want, intend, remember, anticipate, do."

"By necessity, my transdisciplinary background has required me to identify, clarify, and explain essential concepts such that others with very different interests and backgrounds (my  colleagues and my students) can make sense of them and put them to good use. My work on the temporal coding of pitch and rhythm directly informs my perspectives on how and why music works (music speaks the temporally coded language of the brain). My work as an external scientific consultant designing a funding program for research in the neuroscience of consciousness informs my sense of which issues and unresolved questions are most fundamental for understanding the nature of the relations between mind and brain."