Christina Karns, Ph.D.

Christina Karns, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (Neuroscience)
B.S. University of California, San Diego (Cognitive Science, Clinical Aspects Cognition)
Office: LISB 179

Psychology Department, University of Oregon

Research Interests


Selected Presentations

Publication List

Press and Media

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?

  • Developmental Psychology, Psy 308. Fall 2018, Fall 2017.
  •  Psychoactive Drugs, Psy 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. Winter 2019, Winter 2018, Fall 2016, Winter 2016, Fall 2014.
  • Research Methods in Psychology 301, Spring 2019, Spring 2018.
  • Honors college colloqium 441, Neuroscience perspectives on drug policy, Spring 2018.
  •  Neuropsychology, Psy 449. Fall 2017.
  • Honors college colloqium 441, “Why we do good things: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of morality.” Spring 2017.
  • Music and the Brain, Psy 348Neural correlates of our perception of tonality, harmony, melody, and rhythm framed by acoustics, auditory neurobiology, perceptual grouping mechanisms, brain damage, and cognitive neuroscience. Spring 2015.

Selected 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. (2017) The cultivation of pure altruism via gratitude: A functional MRI study of change with gratitude practice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 


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

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

Karns CM, Dow MW, Neville HJ. (2012) 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. Jul 11; 32(28):9626-38.

Attention and Awareness:

Giuliano RJ, Karns CM, Roos LE, Bell TA, Petersen S, Neville HJ, Pakulak E. (In Press, 2018) Effects of Early Adversity on Neural Mechanisms of Distractor Suppression Are Mediated by Sympathetic Nervous System Activity in Preschool-Aged Children. Developmental Psychology

Giuliano RJ, Karns CM, Bell TA, Petersen S, Skowron EA, Neville HJ, Pakulak, E. (2018) Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Contributions to Individual Differences in Neural Mechanisms of Selective Attention in Adults. Psychophysiology.

Andersson A, Sanders LD, Coch D, Karns CM, Neville HJ. (2018) Anterior and posterior erp rhyming effects in 3- to 5-year-old children. Dev Cogn Neurosci.

Pakulak E, Gomsrud M, Reynolds MM, Bell TA, Giuliano R, Karns C, Klein S, Longoria Z, O’Niell L, Santillan J, Neville H. (2017) Focusing on Families: A Two-Generation Model for Reducing Parents’ Stress and Boosting Preschoolers’ Self-Regulation and Attention. in NAEYC publications.

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

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

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

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

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

Deouell LY, Karns CM, Harrison TB, Knight RT. (2003) Spatial Asymmetries of Auditory Event-Synthesis in Humans.Neuroscience Letters. 335:171-4.

Brain Structure Development:

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

Saitoh O, Karns CM, Courchesne E. (2001) Development of the hippocampal formation from 2 to 42 years: MRI evidence of smaller area dentata in autism.Brain 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. (2001) Unusual brain growth patterns in early life in patients with autistic disorder: an MRI study.Neurology 57:245-54.

Selected Press and Media:

The Science of Happiness Podcast. Episode 7 (2018): How Gratitude Benefits Your Brain

Why a Grateful Brain is a Giving One (2017). By Christina Karns. Greater Good Magazine.

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

The Pliable Brain: Altered touch perception in deaf people may reveal individual differences in brain plasticity. By Christina Karns. Thought Experiment. The Scientist (September 2012)

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