Paul Colombo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Louise and Leonard Riggio Professor in Social Entrepreneurship
(504) 862-3359
School of Science & Engineering
Paul Colombo

Education & Affiliations

Ph.D., 1994, University of California, Berkeley


New Orleans has a unique and vibrant musical culture, and members of the Colombo laboratory use musical training as model system to study brain plasticity. Experience-dependent plasticity associated with musical training generalizes beyond auditory processing to influence cognitive functions including attention, working memory, and inhibitory control. In one line of investigation, we study effects of musical training on executive functions, and on neural activity measured by EEG. In another line of research, we study effects of musical training on stress reactivity measured behaviorally and biochemically. Most recently, results of studies in young subjects have been used to formulate and test music-related interventions for preventing and ameliorating age-associated cognitive decline. We also study effects of music-based mentoring on neural, cognitive, and social development. Studies conducted in collaboration with community partners The Roots of Music, and Make Music NOLA, examine the effects of music-based mentoring on executive functions, self-efficacy, and the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the impact of music training on behavior and cognitive functions. For more information:


3062 Percival Stern Hall

Selected Publications

Winston, J.L., Jazwinski, B.M.,Corey, D.M., &  Colombo, P.J. (2021). Music training, and the ability of musicians to harmonize, are associated with enhanced planning and problem-solving. Frontiers in Psychology DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.805186.

Yurgil, K. A., Velasquez, M. A., Winston, J. L., Reichman, N. B., & Colombo, P. J. (2020). Music Training, Working Memory, and Neural Oscillations: A Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(February), 1–17.

Colombo, P. J., Habibi, A., & Alain, C. (2020). Editorial: Music Training, Neural Plasticity, and Executive Function. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 14(August), 1–3.

Pahng, A.R., & Colombo, P.J. (2017) Phosphorylation of tyrosine receptor kinase B in the dorsal striatum is associated with response learning, and may be a mechanism for interactions between neural systems specialized for memory. Behavioural Neuroscience Feb;131(1):33-41.

Yang, H., Hou, H., Pahng, A., Gu, H. Nairn, A. Tang, Y.P., Colombo, P.J., & Xia, H. (2015) Protein phosphatase-1 inhibitor-2 is a novel memory suppressor. Journal of Neuroscience. Nov 11;35(45):15082-7.

Colombo, P.J. & Bohbot V. (2013). Dynamic interactions between memory systems. Hippocampus, 23: 971-972.

Kathirvelu B, Colombo P.J.  (2013). Effects of lentivirus-mediated CREB expression in the dorsolateral striatum: Memory enhancement and evidence for competitive and cooperative interactions with the hippocampus. Hippocampus, 23; 1066-1074.

Kathirvelu, B., East, B.S., Hill, A.R., Smith, C.A., Colombo, P.J. (2013). Lentivirus-mediated chronic expression of dominant-negative CREB in the dorsal hippocampus impairs memory for contextual fear conditioning and place learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 99 10-16.

Colombo, P.J. East, B.S. Jr., Crawley, M. E. & Hill, A.R. (2012). Aging and the Brain. In V.S. Ramachandran (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, 2nd Ed, London: Elsevier.

Smith, C.A., East, B.S., & Colombo, P.J. (2010). The orbitofrontal cortex is not necessary for acquisition or remote recall of socially transmitted food preferences Behavioural Brain Research, 208 243–249.

Brightwell, J.J., Smith, C.A., Neve, R.L., & Colombo, P.J. (2008). Transfection of mutant CREB in the striatum, but not the hippocampus, impairs long-term memory for response learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 89 27-35.

Smith, C.A., Countryman, R.A, Sahuque, L.L., & Colombo, P.J. (2007). Timecourses of Fos expression in rat hippocampus and neocortex following acquisition and recall of a socially transmitted food preference. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 88, 65-74.

Brightwell-Petta, J., Smith, C.A., Neve, R.L., & Colombo, P.J. (2007). Long-term memory for place-learning is facilitated by expression of cAMP response element-binding protein in the dorsal hippocampus. Learning and Memory, 14, 195-199.

Arumugam, H., Liu, X., Colombo, P.J., Corriveau, R.A., & Belousov, A.B. (2005). NMDA receptors regulate developmental gap junction uncoupling via CREB signaling. Nature Neuroscience, 8 (12), 1720-1726.

Countryman, R.A., Kaban, N.L. & Colombo, P.J. (2005). Hippocampal c-fos is necessary for long-term memory of a socially transmitted food preference. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 84, 175-183.

Brightwell, J.J, Smith, C.A., Countryman, R.A, Neve, R.L. & Colombo, P.J. (2005).  Hippocampal overexpression of mutant CREB blocks long-term but not short-term memory for a socially transmitted food preference. Learning and Memory, 12, 12-17.

Countryman, R.A., Orlowski, J.D., Brightwell, J.J., Oskowitz, A.Z. & Colombo, P.J. (2005). CREB phosphorylation and c-Fos expression in the hippocampus of rats during acquisition and recall of a socially transmitted food preference. Hippocampus,15:1, 56-67.

Colombo, P.J. & Gold, P.E. (2004). Multiple memory systems. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 82, 169-170.

Colombo, P.J. (2004). Learning-induced activation of transcription factors among multiple memory systems. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 82, 268-277.

Brightwell, J.J., Gallagher, M. & Colombo, P.J. (2004). Hippocampal CREB1 protein, but not CREB2, is decreased in aged rats with spatial memory impairments. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 81, 19-26.

Colombo, P.J., Brightwell, J.J., & Countryman, R.A. (2003). Cognitive strategy-specific increases in phosphorylated CREB and c-Fos in the hippocampus and dorsal striatum.  Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 3547-3554.

Colombo, P.J., & Gallagher, M. (2002). Individual differences in spatial memory among aged rats are related to protein kinase C immunoreactivity in CA1 of hippocampus. Hippocampus, 12, 285-289.

Nicolle, M.J., Colombo, P.J., Gallagher, M., & McKinney, M. (1999). Metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated phosphoinositide turnover is blunted in spatial learning-impaired aged rats. Journal of Neuroscience, 19, 9604-9610.

Colombo, P.J. & Gallagher, M. (1998). Individual differences in spatial memory and striatal ChAT activity among young and aged rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 70, 314-327.

Colombo, P.J., Wetsel, W.C., & Gallagher, M. (1997). Spatial memory is related to hippocampal subcellular concentrations of calcium-dependent protein kinase C isoforms in young and aged rats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 94, 14195-14199.

Colombo, P.J. (1997). Promises and Challenges of Brain Repair. Contemporary Psychology, 42, 513.

Colombo, P.J., Rivera, D.T., Martinez Jr., J.L., Bennett, E.L., & Rosenzweig, M.R. (1997). Evidence for localized and discrete roles for enkephalins during memory formation in the chick. Behavioral Neuroscience, 111, 114-122.

Colombo, P.J. (1996). Filling in a niche among animal learning textbooks. Contemporary Psychology, 41, 891-892.

Gallagher, M., & Colombo, P.J. (1995). Ageing: The cholinergic hypothesis of cognitive decline.  Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 5, 161-168.

Colombo, P.J.,Rivera, D.T., Martinez, J. L., Bennett,E.L. (1994). Neurochemical and pharmacological examination of the involvement of Met-enkephalin in memory for avoidance training in two regions of the chick brain. NIDA Research Monographs, Vol 141, 266.

Colombo, P.J., Thompson, K.R., Martinez Jr., J.L., Bennett, E.L., & Rosenzweig, M.R. (1993).  Dynorphin(1-13) impairs memory formation for aversive and appetitive 
learning in chicks.  Peptides, 14, 1165-1170.

Rosenzweig, M.R., Bennett, E.L., Colombo, P.J., Lee, D.W., & Serrano, P.A. (1993).  Short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term memories. Behavioural Brain Research, 57, 193-198.

Brooks, S.A., Colombo, P.J., Derrick, B.E., Gladden, V.L., Hernandez, R.V., Janak, P.H., Rodriguez, W.A., Rule. R.R. (1993). From Behavior to Brain: How Behavior Guides Reductionistic Analysis. Contemporary Psychology, 38. (11), 1183-1185.

Colombo, P.J., Thompson, K.R., Martinez Jr., J.L., Bennett, E.L., & Rosenzweig, M.R. (1993).  Opioid peptide administration and memory formation: effects of administration vehicle.  Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society, 36, 239-244.

Colombo, P.J., Martinez Jr., J.L., Bennett, E.L., & Rosenzweig, M.R. (1992).  Kappa opioid receptor activity modulates memory for peck-avoidance training in the 2-day-old chick.  Psychopharmacology, 108, 235-240.
Rosenzweig, M.R., Bennett, E.L., Martinez Jr., J.L., Beniston, D., Colombo, P.J., Lee, D.W., Patterson, T.A., Schulteis, G., & Serrano, P.A. (1991).  Stages of memory formation in the chick: findings and problems.  In R. Andrew (Ed.) Neural and Behavioral Plasticity in the Domestic Chick.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davis, H.P., Cohen, A., Gandy, M., Colombo, P.J., VanDusseldorp, G., Simolke, N., & Romano, J. (1990).  Lexical priming deficits as a function of age.  Behavioral Neuroscience, 104, 286-295.

Colombo, P.J., Davis, H.P, & Volpe, B.T. (1989).  Allocentric spatial and tactile memory impairments in rats with dorsal caudate lesions are affected by preoperative behavioral training.  Behavioral Neuroscience, 103, 1242-1250.

Volpe, B.T., Davis, H.P., & Colombo, P.J. (1989).  Preoperative training modifies radial maze performance in rats with ischemic hippocampal injury.  Stroke, 20, 1700-1706.

Colombo, P.J., Davis, H.P., Simolke, N., Markley, F., & Volpe, B.T. (1988).  Forebrain ischemia produces hippocampal damage and a persistent working memory deficit in rats.  Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 26 (4), 375-377.

Courses Taught

Biological Psychology: PSYC/NSCI 4510

Music and Brain: PSYC/NSCI 4513

Brain and Behavior: PSYC/NSCI 3300