Our philosophical approach to research is best described as embodied. This approach is based on the idea that the body has influence over many aspects of cognitive and affective processing. For example, a spoken or sung phrase will tend to elicit an internal simulation on the part of the observer, which engages motor and somatosensory areas of the brain. In some cases the simulation will lead to bodily movement or even sensations (e.g., engaging vocal and facial muscles). While this simulation is not required for successful communication to take place, it appears to facilitate the speed of understanding and predictions about future events. When expressive communication is synchronized, as is typical in group singing or dancing, the line between self and other blurs, leading to trust and affiliative tendencies. This embodied approach, which focuses on sensorimotor interaction with the physical and social world, lies in sharp contrast with mind-body dualism, an approach made famous in the 17th century by Descartes, and that persists in varying forms in cognitive neuroscience to this day.
Our perspective on signals that we record from the brain is neurodynamic. This perspective focuses on the functional role of time-varying neural activity. For example, while listening to a piece of music, events that align with temporal expectancies are more salient and better processed than events that do not align. These temporal expectancies are thought to be instantiated when oscillations in the brain (i.e., action potentials) become tuned to oscillations in the physical world (e.g., rhythm or pitch). Because of its high temporal resolution, we have found electroencephalography (EEG) to be a useful modality for assessing neurodynamic questions. In order to also consider localization of function, we typically subject our high-density EEG recordings to blind-source separation, followed by analysis of spectrotemporal features within sources that are fit to a head model. More recently, we have been assessing the feasibility of using fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) to investigate hemodynamic responses to music and speech.
In addition to behavioural and brain measures, many of our studies involve tracking peripheral
physiological measures such as galvanic skin response, heart rate, respiration, and facial electromyography. Consistent with the embodied perspective, we believe that changes in peripheral physiology are not merely epiphenomena, but that they provide important input to emotional judgments about music and speech over the short term and mood induction over the long term.
Music Cognition / Emotion
Our primary stream of “basic research” seeks to understand music perception and production from an embodied perspective...
Our secondary stream of “basic research” focuses on auditory perception and cognition in real-world listening scenarios...
Health & Well-Being
Our “applied research” generally seeks to develop or optimize assistive technologies (e.g., hearing aids) as well as music-based interventions...
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