Combining a passion for music with scientific curiosity, Professor Viskontas works at the intersection of art and science. She has published more than 50 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity. Her scientific work has been featured in Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia, Nautilus, Nature: Science Careers, and Discover Magazine. She has also written for MotherJones.com, American Scientist, Vitriol Magazine, and other publications. Her first book, How Music Can Make You Better, was published by Chronicle Books in April, 2019, and within a week was the best-selling music appreciation book on Amazon. She also serves as the Director of Communications for the Sound Health Network, an initiative promoting research and public awareness of the impact of music on health and well-being.
She often gives keynote talks, for organizations as diverse as Genentech, the Dallas Symphony, SXSW, TEDx and Ogilvy, along with frequent invited talks at conferences and academic institutions. Her 24-lecture course Essential Scientific Concepts was released by The Great Courses in 2014. Her second course, Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience, based on a class she taught at USF, was released in early 2017 and hit #1 on the nonfiction bestseller list at Audible.com. Her third course, How Digital Technology Shapes Us was also based on a class she teaches at USF, and was released in 2020. Her forthcoming course, The Creative Brain, is slated to be released on the Wondrium platform in 2022. Dr. Viskontas's creative work includes stage directing opera. She is the Creative Director of Pasadena Opera, where she directed The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, a chamber opera based on the famous case study written by Oliver Sacks. Other directing credits include Katya Kabanova with West Edge Opera at Cal Shakes in Orinda in 2021.
Dr. Viskontas is also a sought-after science communicator. She co-hosted the 6-episode docu-series Miracle Detectives on the Oprah Winfrey Network and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, major radio stations across the US, including several appearances on the NPR program City Arts & Lectures and The Sunday Edition on the CBC in Canada. In 2017, she co-hosted the web series Science in Progress for Tested.com and VRV. She is also the host of the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds, which has more than 13 million downloads. Her other podcast, Cadence: What Music Tells Us About the Mind was a Webby Award Honoree in 2021.
- PhD, Cognitive Neuroscience, University of California - Los Angeles
- MM, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
- BSc, University of Toronto
- Learning and Memory
- Musical Training
- Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Selected Publications
Slayton, M. A., Romero-Sosa, J. L., Shore, K., Buonomano, D. V., & Viskontas, I. V. (2020). Musical expertise generalizes to superior temporal scaling in a Morse code tapping task. PloS one, 15(1), e0221000.
Slayton, M., Bristol, A. S., & Viskontas, I. V. (2019). Factors affecting group creativity: lessons from musical ensembles. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 27, 169-174.
Viskontas, I.V. (2018) The Challenges of Changing Minds: Why Pseudoscience Persists. In Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science (Kaufmann & Kaufmann, eds), MIT Press.
Viskontas, I.V. (2017) Training to be Creative: Mindset, Motivation and Deliberate Practice. In Cambridge Handbook of the Neuroscience of Creativity (Jung and Vartanian, eds), Cambridge University Press.
Viskontas, I.V. (2017). "The Challenges of Changing Minds: Why Pseudoscience Persists." In Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science, eds. Kaufmann & Kaufmann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Viskontas, I.V., Knowlton, B.J. & Fried, I. (2016). "Responses of Neurons in the Medial Temporal Lobe During Encoding and Recognition of Face-Scene Pairs." Neuropsychologia, 90, 200-209.
Marlow, C.A., Viskontas, I.V., Matlin, A., Boydston, C., Boxer, A. & Taylor, R.P. (2015). "Temporal Structure of Human Gaze Dynamics Is Invariant During Free Viewing." PLoS One, 10(9), e0139379.
Viskontas, I.V. & Lee, S. E. (2015). "The Creation of Art in the Setting of Dementia." In Art, Aesthetics and the Brain, eds. Joseph Huston & Marco Nadal, et al. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 357-372.
Viskontas, I.V. & Miller, B.L. (2013). "Art and Dementia: How Degeneration of Some Brain Regions can Lead to New Creative Impulses." In The Neuroscience of Creativity, eds. A. Bristol, O. Vartanian & J. Kaufmann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 115-132.
Kapur, N., Cole, J., Manly, T., Viskontas, I.V., Ninteman, A., Hasher, L. & Pascual-Leone, A. (2013). "Positive Clinical Neuroscience – Explorations in Positive Neurology." The Neuroscientist, 19(4), 354-369.
Howard, M.W, Viskontas, I.V., Shankar, K.H. & Fried, I. (2012). "Ensembles of Human MTL Neurons ‘Jump Back in Time’ in Response to a Repeated Stimulus." Hippocampus, 22(9), 1833-1847.
Viskontas, I.V. (2012). "Mapping Memories in the Medial Temporal Lobe: Contributions from Single-Neuron Recordings in Patients with Epilepsy." Proceedings of the Epilepsy and Memory: the State of the Art Meeting in Dartington, 2009. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Viskontas, I.V., Boxer, A.L., Fesenko, J., Matlin, A., Heuer, H.W., Mirsky, J. & Miller, B.L. (2011). "Visual Search Patterns in Semantic Dementia Show Paradoxical Facilitation of Binding Processes." Neuropsychologia, 49(3), 468-478.
Miller, B.L. & Viskontas, I.V. (2011). "Introduction: Elucidating the Neural Basis of the Self." Neurocase, 17(3), 189.
Mirsky, J.B., Heuer, H.W., Jafari, A., Kramer, J.H., Schenk, A.K., Viskontas, I.V., Miller, B.L. & Boxer, A.L. (2011). "Anti-Saccade Performance Predicts Executive Function and Brain Structure in Normal Elders." Cognitive Behavior and Neurology, 24(2), 50-58.
Viskontas, I.V. & Miller, B.L. (2011). "Paradoxical Creativity and Adjustment in Neurological Conditions." In The Paradoxical Brain, ed. N. Kapur. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 221-233.
Greenberg, D.L., Ogar, J.M., Viskontas, I.V., Gorno Tempini, M.L., Miller, B. & Knowlton, B.J. (2010). "Multimodal Cuing of Autobiographical Memory in Semantic Dementia." Neuropsychology, 25(1), 98-104.
Viskontas, I.V., Quiroga, R.Q. & Fried, I. (2009). "Human Medial Temporal Lobe Neurons Respond Preferentially to Personally Relevant Images." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(50), 21,329-21,334.
Viskontas, I.V., Carr, V.A., Engel, S.A. & Knowlton, B.J. (2009). "The Neural Correlates of Recollection: Hippocampal Activation Declines as Episodic Memory Fades. Hippocampus,19(3), 265-272.
Viskontas, I.V., Carr, V.A., Engel, S.A. & Knowlton, B.J. (2009). "Neural Activity in the Hippocampus and Perirhinal Cortex during Encoding Is Associated with the Durability of Episodic Memory." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22(11), 2,652-2,662.
Viskontas, I.V., Papatriantyfallou, J., Papageorgiou, S., Miller, B.L., Pavlic, D., Bingol, A. & Yener, G. (2009). "Difficulties in Detecting Behavioral Symptoms of Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration Across Cultures." Alzheimer’s Disease and Associated Disorders, 23(1), 77-81.
Miller, B.L. & Viskontas, I.V. (2009). "Memory Loss." In Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, ed. S.L. Hauser. McGraw Hill Press, online.
Viskontas, I.V. & Miller, B.L. (2009). "Frontotemporal Dementia." In Behavioral Neurology of Dementia, eds. B.L. Miller & B. Boeve. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 45-55.
Geschwind, M.A., Haman, A. & Viskontas, I.V. (2009). "Frontotemporal Dementia." In Behavioral Neurology of Dementia, eds. B.L. Miller & B. Boeve. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 345-366.
Viskontas, I.V. (2008). "Advances in Memory Research: Single-Neuron Recordings from the Human Medial Temporal Lobe Aid our Understanding of Declarative Memory." Current Opinion in Neurology, 21(6), 662-668.
Krawczyk, D.C, Morrison, R.G., Viskontas, I.V., Holyoak, K.J., Chow, T.W., Mendez, M.F., Miller, B.L. & Knowlton, B.J. (2008). "Distraction During Relational Reasoning: The Role of Prefrontal Cortex in Interference Control." Neuropsychologia, 46, 2,020-2,032.
Rosen, H., & Viskontas, I.V. (2008). "Cortical Neuroanatomy and Cognition." In Handbook of Clinical Neurology: Neuropsychology and Behavior, eds. B.L. Miller & G. Goldenberg. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier, 88:41-60.
Viskontas, I.V. & Fried, I. (2008). "Imaging Techniques: Human Depth Electrodes." In New Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, ed. L.R. Squire. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier, online.
Viskontas, I.V., Possin, K.L. & Miller, B.L. (2007). "Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia Provide Insights into Orbitofrontal Cortex Function and Social Behavior." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1121, 528-549.
Carr, V. & Viskontas, I.V. (2007). "A Unique Role for the Hippocampus in Recollecting the Past and Remembering the Future." Brain and Behavioral Sciences, 30(3), 319-320.
Ekstrom, A.D., Viskontas, I.V., Kahana, M.J., Jacobs, J., Upchurch, K., Bookheimer, S. & Fried, I. (2007). "Contrasting Roles of Neural Firing and Local Field Potentials in Human Memory." Hippocampus, 17(8), 606-617.
Viskontas, I.V., Ekstrom, A.D., Wilson, C.L. & Fried, I. (2007). "Characterizing Interneuron and Pyramidal Cells in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe in Vivo." Hippocampus, 17(1), 49-57.
Viskontas, I.V. & Miller, B.L. (2007). "Frontotemporal Dementia." Continuum: Dementia, American Academy of Neurology, 13(2), 87-108.
Viskontas, I.V., Knowlton, B.J., Steinmetz, P.N. & Fried, I. (2006). "Differences in Mnemonic Processing by Neurons in the Human Hippocampus and Parahippocampal Region." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(10), 1,654-1,662.
Viskontas, I.V. & Holyoak, K.J. (2006). "Mechanisms of Fluid Cognition: Relational Integration and Inhibition." Brain and Behavioral Sciences, 29(2),141-142.
Sha, S.J., Hou, C., Viskontas, I.V. & Miller, B.L. (2006). "Are Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and Corticobasal Degeneration Distinct Diseases?" Nature Reviews: Clinical Practice Neurology, 2(12), 658-665.
Bristol, A.S. & Viskontas, I.V. (2006). "Dynamic Processes within Associative Memory Stores: Piecing together the Neural Basis of Creative Cognition." In Creativity, Knowledge and Reason, eds. J.C. Kaufman & J. Baer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 60-80.
Viskontas, I.V., Holyoak, K.J. & Knowlton, B.J. (2005). "Relational Integration in Older Adults." Thinking & Reasoning, 11(4), 390-410.
Viskontas, I.V., Morrison, R.G., Holyoak, K.J., Hummel, J.E. & Knowlton, B.J. (2004). "Relational Integration, Inhibition and Reasoning in Older Adults." Psychology & Aging, 19(4), 1-11.
Knowlton, B.J. & Viskontas, I.V. (2003). "Retention Systems of the Brain: Evidence from Neuropsychological Patients." Brain and Behavioral Sciences, 26(6), 743-744.
Viskontas, I.V. & Knowlton, B.J. (2003). "Procedural Learning in Humans." In Learning and Memory, Second Edition, ed. J.H. Byrne. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference.
Viskontas, I.V., McAndrews, M.P. & Moscovitch, M. (2002). "Memory for Famous People in Patients with Unilateral Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Excisions." Neuropsychology, 16(4), 472-480.
Viskontas, I.V., McAndrews, MP. & Moscovitch, M. (2000). "Remote Episodic Memory Deficits in Patients with Unilateral Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and Excisions." The Journal of Neuroscience, 20(15), 5,853-5,857.
- Awards & Distinctions
Grantee, Germanacos Foundation, 2014 & 2016
Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 2012
Hellman Fellow, UCSF, 2009-2011
Graduate Division Valedictorian, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 2008
McBean Family Foundation Fellow, UCSF, 2007-2009
Psychology Department Doctoral Valedictorian, UCLA, 2006
Gengerelli Dissertation Prize in Psychology, UCLA, 2006
Charles and Sue Young Outstanding Graduate Student Award, UCLA, 2006
UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2005
Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award, UCLA, 2004
Julie-Payette Research Fellowship, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), 2001-2005
Dissertation Research Grant, Sigma Xi, 2004
American Psychological Association CODGOP Award, 2002
UCLA Affiliates Margaret and Charles Pollok Scholarship, 2002
Hanson Distinguished Service Award, Graduate Students’ Association, 2002
Ursula Mandel Fellowship, UCLA 2001
Distinguished Achievement Fellowship, UCLA, 2000