Discovering Curiosity: Making Music, Studying Memory with Charan Ranganath

Charan Ranganath uses an EEG cap.
Professor Charan Ranganath is a member of the band Here Knows When, which is comprised of UC Davis researchers and a UC Davis alum. Karin Higgins/UC Davis

An audio clip from the Apollo 11 launch plays amid static. “Ignition sequence start,” a voice says. “Six, five, four, three…” As the countdown continues, the feedback swells in the background, as if an amplifier’s volume knob is slowly being turned up. “All engines running,” the voice says. “Liftoff.”

Then, the electric guitar hits. Distorted and heavy, the driving riff repeats and is joined by a twangy counterpart and pulsing drums. A cosmic surfer might listen to this song—“Neutron Star” from the Lost Moon EP by Here Knows When—while cruising the galaxy.

The tune’s source, UC Davis Aggies.

Here Knows When comprises a trio of UC Davis researchers and a UC Davis alum, including Jeff Sherman, Danielle Stolzenberg, Daniel Cordova and Ranganath. Formed roughly three years ago, the band throws elements of punk and indie rock into a blender to create a dreamy yet rugged sound.

Ranganath’s journeys in science and music unfolded on parallel and different tracks, but there are similarities to how he approaches the two. For Ranganath, a cognitive neuroscientist studying memory, both his research and his music are expressions of curiosity, a concept that’s also becoming a focus of his lab. 

Read the full story on Ranganath's paths in science and music