Assal Habibi

Associate Professor (Research) of Psychology
Email Office DNI 150 Office Phone (213) 740-3588


  • Ph.D. Psychology, University of California, Irvine, 2011
  • B.A. Psychology, University of California, Irvine, 2005
    • Postdoctoral Fellow, Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California , 2011-2015
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    My research takes a broad perspective on understanding human development. I am specifically interested in how cognitive, emotional and social skills are shaped by interaction of biological dispositions and environmental factors and childhood positive interventions, such as music training or athletic practice , can improve emotion regulation, decision making, academic outcomes, and mental health. My research incorporates electrophysiology, neuroimaging and psychometric assessments. I am currently leading a multi-year longitudinal study, in collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (YOLA), investigating the effects of early childhood music training on the development of brain function and structure as well as cognitive, socio-emotional development. For more information on my work and the Brain and Creativity Institute, please visit

    Research Keywords

    child development, cognitive neuroscience, social development, music training

  • Contracts and Grants Awarded

    • How Music Education Can Benefit Executive Function and Emotion Regulation in Adolescents, (National Endowment for the Arts), Assal Habibi, $90,000, 2018 – 2020
  • Book Chapters

    • Sachs, M., Habibi, A., Damasio, H. (2018). Reflections on music, affect, and sociality. Progress in brain research (Vol. 237) Elsevier.

    Journal Article

    • Ilari, B., Wood, A., Perez, P., Habibi, A.The role of community-based music and sports programs on parental views of children’s social skills and personality. International Journal of Community Music.
    • Sachs, M., Kaplan, J., Habibi, A. (2018). Echoing the emotions of others: Empathy is related to how adults and children map emotion onto the body. Emotion and Cognition.
    • Sachs, M., Habibi, A., Damasio, A., Kaplan, J. (2018). Uncovering the Neural Representation of Emotion-related Meaning Expressed through Sounds. Neuroimage. Vol. 174, pp. 1-10.
    • Habibi, A., Damasio, A., Ilari, B., Veiga, R., Joshi, A., Leahy, R., Haldar, J., Varadarajan, D., Bhushan, C., Damasio, H. (2017). Childhood Music Training Induces Change in Micro and Macroscopic Brain Structure; Results from a Longitudinal Study. CEREBRAL CORTEX.
    • Ilari, B., Fesjian, C., Ficek, B., Habibi, A. (2017). Improvised Song Endings in a Developmental Perspective: A mixed-methods study. PSYCOLOGY OF MUISC. (0305735617715515)
    • Habibi, A., Cahn, R. B., Damasio, A., Damasio, H. (2016). Neural correlates of accelerated auditory processing in children engaged in music training. DEVELOPMENTAL COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE. Vol. 21, pp. 1-14.
    • Ilari, B. S., Keller, P., Damasio, H., Habibi, A. (2016). The Development of Musical Skills of Underprivileged Children Over the Course of 1 Year: A Study in the Context of an El Sistema-Inspired Program. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. Vol. 7
    • Ilari, B., Habibi, A. (2015). Favorite songs, melodic elements, and a familiar tune: Performance of children from Brazil and the United States on components of the ATBSS. MUSICAE SCIENTIAE. Vol. 19 (3), pp. 265-281.
    • Sachs, M. E., Damasio, A., Habibi, A. (2015). The pleasures of sad music: a systematic review. FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE. Vol. 9
    • Habibi, A., Sarkissian, A. D., Gomez, M., Ilari, B. (2015). Developmental Brain Research With Participants From Underprivileged Communities: Strategies for Recruitment, Participation, and Retention. MIND BRAIN AND EDUCATION. Vol. 9 (3), pp. 179-186.
    • Habibi, A., Damasio, A. (2014). Music, Feelings, and the Human Brain. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain. Vol. 24 (1), pp. 92-102.
    • Habibi, A., Wirantana, V., Starr, A. (2014). Cortical Activity during Perception of Musical Rhythm; Comparing Musicians and Non-musicians. Psychomusicology. Vol. 24 (2), pp. 125-135.
    • Habibi, A., Ilari, B., Crimi, K., Metke, M., Kaplan, J. T., Joshi, A. A., Leahy, R. M., Shattuck, D. W., Choi, S. Y., Haldar, J. P., Ficek, B., Damasio, A., Damasio, H. (2014). An equal start: absence of group differences in cognitive, social, and neural measures prior to music or sports training in children. FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE. Vol. 8


    • Habibi, A., Damasio, A., Ilari, B., Sachs, M., Damasio, H. (2018). Music Training and Child Development. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
  • Committees

    • Member, Dornsife Faculty Council, 2017 – 2019
    • Member, Academic Senate, 2018-2019