The SoundMind project aims to develop therapeutic and assistive uses of Augmented Audio Reality (AAR) for people with Alzheimer’s Disease. SoundMind, a collaboration between King’s College London and University College Cork, is funded by the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute and is led by Dr Alexander Khalil, Department of Music, University College Cork and Dr Grainne McLoughlin, Social Genetic Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre, Institute of Psychiatry Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN).
Alexander Khalil: PI
AmirAli Farokhniaee: PostDoctoral Researcher
AmirAli completed his bachelor degree in atomic-molecular physics at University of Tehran, Iran, and continued his graduate studies in the USA beginning at Florida Atlantic University, and obtained his PhD degree in physics from University of Connecticut. His research focus at the time was simulation and analysis of gradient frequency neural networks, with an emphasis on auditory neuroscience and sound/music perception applying rules of theoretical and computational neuroscience. As a side project, he started working with Dr. Sabato Santaniello on network models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and deep brain stimulation (DBS).
He started his first postdoc with Prof. Cameron McIntyre at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, getting trained in the field with the main focus on the role of hyperdirect pathway in modulating motor cortex activity during DBS and the role of short-term synaptic plasticity in delivering therapeutic benefits of DBS. After suggesting novel DBS pulsing strategies, he moved on to expand his knowledge on the biophysically realistic network models of PD and DBS, working with Prof. Madeleine Lowery at University College Dublin, Ireland, as his second postdoc position.They developed a biophysically-realistic thalamo-cortical model of spiking neurons for DBS, able to be used for identifying different DBS targets with diverse parameters.
He obtained an industrial fellowship by Science Foundation Ireland, which enabled him to work with Newronika S.p.A. for a year and a half, based in Milan, Italy. AmirAli expanded his expertise in data analysis and data management and specifically used linear mixed models to investigate the changes in brain activity of patients with PD during different combinations of DBS and levodopa administration. AmirAli was the consultant of Grigioni foundation for PD based in Italy and worked with Prof. Ioannis Isaias, where they analysed brain signals such as LFP and EEG of the human gait during different tasks and speech at rest. He spent less than six months at IT’IS foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland to work on micro- and macro-scale models of brain activity. Now, AmirAli works with Dr. Alexander Khalil in Department of Music at University College Cork, Ireland in collaboration with Dr. Grainne McLoughlin, Institute of Neuroscience at King’s College London, England, on the SoundMind project that aims to investigate novel, non-invasive methods of neuromodulation and Augmented Audio Reality (AAR) for those suffering mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
Lewis Smith: PostDoctoral Researcher
Lewis Smith is a saxophonist, composer and software developer from Belfast who has worked on the Irish jazz scene and further afield for almost 30 years. Smith was saxophonist for the Brian Irvine Ensemble for 11 years, performing in many European Music Festivals. He has performed for television and radio, at the Glastonbury festival and toured Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
As a composer Smith has composed for jazz ensembles and performed those compositions with works featuring in the Michael Grigbsy documentary ‘The Rehearsals’. After touring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Smith returned to Kazakhstan to research Kazakh traditional music with the guidance of multi-instrumentalist Yedil Khuseinov. Smith returned to Belfast composing several works for sextet based on this research and his background in western music and improvisation.
He has composed several inclusive works and designs and programs all the software used in his compositions. He has composed for string quartet and electronics, jazz quartet and electronics, saxophone, and electronics. His most recent work ‘Trip Tick for VR and Electronics’ was composed for the inaugural concert of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland in 2019. Smith was the technical lead in the Le Cheile project, a joint research project between Ulster University and the Royal Irish Academy of Music, which created three new inclusive ensembles around Ireland and led to the formation of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland.
In recent years Smith has returned to academia, engaging in a master’s degree and in 2023 completed his PhD entitled WithFeel: Embodiment as a Framework for Accessible Music Composition, Performance, and Design in Virtual Reality. His research focussed on embodiment, inclusive music making, immersive technology, participatory design and accessible software design, creating two applications with Disabled musicians. With these applications the Disabled musicians were able to use metaphor to compose new music and perform their works together in a networked Virtual Reality (VR) application. In 2022 Smith worked with Dr Jill Rose Jacobs to design choreography software with funding obtained from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland using accessible design techniques he acquired from his research.
In 2023 the software from his PhD research has been redesigned for VR performance with Disabled musicians in Acoustronic for a unique performance. Acoustronic are an inclusive music ensemble based in Ulster University. Professor Frank Lyons’ composition ZoomTime is being performed by Acoustronic (UU), Performance without Barriers (Queens University Belfast) and the Ulster Orchestra with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Rachel Gough: Administrative Assistant & Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Film & Screen Media
Pia Kirby-Roycroft: Research Assistant