Christina Karns, Ph.D.

Christina Karns
Research Associate
Brain Development Lab, University of Oregon, LISB 179
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (Neuroscience)
B.S. University of California, San Diego (Cognitive Science)

I use human neuroimaging (fMRI and EEG), behavior, and assessments to address the following :

How do positive emotions like gratitude interact with values like altruism and generosity to affect the way we interact with society and other people? What brain systems support these interactions, how do they affect stress systems in the body, and to what degree are these interactions changeable, demonstrating neuroplasticity? As director of the Emotions and Neuroplasticity project, I head a research endeavor investigating these questions – more information on this research can be found here: Link to main research page: Emotions and Neuroplasticity project

In addition, my research addresses fundamental neuroplasticity questions such as:

  • How does the brain interact with autonomic systems to support emotion and cognition over the lifespan and how is it affected by experience?
  • How do attention and self-regulation develop in children, teens, and adults?
  • How do attention and awareness modulate brain responses?
  • How is the auditory cortex altered by experience and attention, for example, in adults who were born deaf?
  • Spring 2017, Honors college colloqium 441, “Neuroscience perspectives on drug policy “
  • Fall 2017, Developmental Psychology (Psy 308) and Neuropsychology (Psy 449)
  • Spring 2017, Honors college colloqium 441, “Why we do good things: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of morality.”
  • Winter 2018 (upcoming), Fall 2016, Winter 2016, Fall 2014, Psychoactive Drugs, Psych 383Physiological and behavioral effects of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol, opiates, barbiturates, and excitants. The psychology of use and overuse; therapies for correcting drug problems.
  • Spring 2015, Music and the Brain, Psych 348Neural correlates of our perception of tonality, harmony, melody, and rhythm framed by acoustics, auditory neurobiology, perceptual grouping mechanisms, brain damage, and cognitive neuroscience.

Scientific Insights from the Greater Good Gratitude Summit By Jeremy Adam Smith
June 17, 2014.

Guest on Science Fantastic with Professor Michio Kaku. Aired July 28, 2012. Talk Radio Network.

How the Deaf Brain Rewires Itself to ‘Hear’ Touch and Sight. Jul 11 2012. Nadja Popovich The Atlantic.

Deaf People’s Brains Use Audio Cortex For Other Senses, July 10, 2012. Oregon Public Radio News. Rob Manning

Deaf people ‘feel touch’ with hearing part of brain, Jeanna Bryner, July 11, 2012. and

Deaf People Hear Touch? July 12, 2012. SourceFed

Prosocial emotions:

 Conference presentations:

Karns, CM. Gratitude in a Changing Brain. Positive Resilient Minds. Learning and the Brain. 2017

Karns, CM. Relating gratitude to social evaluations and generosity.  Social Affective Neuroscience Society, 2014.

Karns C.M., Towards an Integrative Science of Gratitude,  (Dacher Keltner, organizer) 26th APS Annual Convention San Francisco, May 22-25 2014.

Karns C.M., The Gratitude Effect: Physical, Psychological, and Social Benefits of Gratitude. The Greater Good Gratitude Summit. Berkeley, CA June 7, 2014

Karns C.M. The Grateful Brain. Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude Research Workshop, Berkeley, CA, June 2013.

Karns C.M. Prosocial Emotions and Neuroplasticity. University of Oregon Mindfulness Retreat. November 2013.

Karns C.M. Prosocial Emotions and Neuroplasticity. Institute of Neuroscience retreat symposium. University of Oregon. October 2013.

Positive Emotions and Neuroplasticity:

Karns CM, Moore WE, Mayr U (In Revision) Gratitude, giving, and gains: An fMRI study of gratitude related altruism.

Karns CM, May L. (In Revision) A grateful mind.


Karns CM, Stevens C, Dow MW, Schorr EM, Neville HJ. Atypical white-matter microstructure in congenitally deaf adults: a region of interest and tractography study using diffusion-tensor imaging. Hearing Research (2016 – in press). [Region of interest templates will be available at Hearing Research or are available from me on request] Accepted manuscript

Scott GD*, Karns CM*, Dow MW, Stevens C, and Neville HJ. Enhanced peripheral visual processing in congenitally deaf humans is supported by multiple brain regions, including primary auditory cortex . Front. Hum. Neurosci. (2014) doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00177
*equal authorship

Karns CM, Dow MW, Neville HJ. Altered cross-modal processing in the primary auditory cortex of congenitally deaf adults: a visual-somatosensory fMRI study with a double-flash illusion. Journal of Neuroscience. (2012) Jul 11; 32(28):9626-38.

Attention and Awareness:

Karns CM, Isbell E, Giuliano R, Neville HJ. (2015Selective auditory attention in childhood and adolescence: An event-related potential study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Giuliano R, Karns C.M., Neville, H., Hilyard SA. Relationship between attention and working memory: an auditory ERP and visual working memory study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. (2014) 26(12):2682-90.

Batterink L, Karns CM, Neville H. Dissociable Mechanisms Supporting Awareness: The P300 and Gamma in a Linguistic Attentional Blink Task. Cerebral Cortex. (2012) 22(12):2733-44.

Batterink L, Karns CM, Yamada Y, Neville H. The role of awareness in semantic and syntactic processing: an ERP attentional blink study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. (2010) 22(11):2514-29.

Karns, C.M., Knight, R.T., Intermodal auditory, visual, and tactile attention modulates early stages of neural processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. (2009) 21(4):669-83.

Moberget T., Karns, C.M., Deouell, L., Lindgren, M., Ivry, R.B., Knight, R.T Detecting violations of sensory expectancies following cerebellar degeneration: A mismatch negativity study.Neuropsychologia (2008) 46(1): 2569-79.

Deouell L.Y., Karns C.M., Harrison T.B., Knight R.T. Spatial Asymmetries of Auditory Event-Synthesis in Humans. Neuroscience Letters. (2003) 335:171-4.

Brain Structure Development:

Bartholomeusz, H.H., Courchesne, E., Karns, C.M. Relationship between head circumference and brain volume in healthy normal children and adultsNeuropediatrics (2002) 33:239-41.

Saitoh O, Karns CM, Courchesne E. Development of the hippocampal formation from 2 to 42 years: MRI evidence of smaller area dentata in autism. Brain (2001) 124:1317-24.

Courchesne E, Karns CM, Davis HR, Ziccardi R, Carper RA, Tigue ZD, Chisum HJ, Moses P, Pierce K, Lord C, Lincoln AJ, Pizzo S, Schreibman L, Haas RH, Akshoomoff NA, Courchesne RY. Unusual brain growth patterns in early life in patients with autistic disorder: an MRI study. Neurology (2001) 57:245-54.