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Music Cognition Lab
Department of Psychology, Queen's University
62 Arch Street, Kingston Ontario, K7L 3N6
T: 613-533-2490  F: 613-533-2499

Lab Events

Check back regularly for Music Cognition Lab news and events.

April 29, 2018

Welcome to the new edition of the Music Cognition Laboratory Newsletter! A busy school year is winding down – a good time to reflect on what has been going on!

In this issue:

What we have been up to in the last few months,
and updates on the comings and goings of our lab.

Congratulations to:

Dhanuska D’Mello, Directed Lab student, for completing her Directed Lab course with us. Together with Matthew Crocker, who has been volunteering in our lab over the past few terms, she has prepared an abstract which was accepted to be presented at the Department of Psychiatry Research Day. Together with Anja-Xiaoxing Cui, Ph.D. candidate, they have also prepared an abstract which was accepted to be presented at the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology this fall! The abstract is shown below.

‘Have you danced to this?’ – Embodied music and memory

Cui, A.X., D’Mello, D., Crocker, M., & Cuddy, L.L.

Background in Cognitive Science
Musical long-term memories appear preserved in aging and aging disorders (Cuddy et al., 2012). Characteristics of music-evoked autobiographical memories are similar in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy peers (Cuddy, Sikka, Silveira, Bai, & Vanstone, 2017). Motivated by recent embodied approaches which highlight the role of the body in driving cognitive processes, we have incorporated an embodied aspect to this line of inquiry: do facial and bodily reactions during music listening offer hints as to why musical and music-evoked memories are preserved? How can we use analyses of these reactions to enrich our understanding of music in aging?

Background in Sociomusicology
When we consider the socio-cultural dimension of music it becomes apparent that music is a communicative device (Cross, 2014). From this perspective, music experiments have a dual nature: the controlled environment of a music stimulus list, and the uncontrolled socio-cultural setting of a human experiment. Participants’ reactions in our present study can be categorized then as either musical, i.e., as engaging with the musical stimulus itself (e.g., dancing, tapping to the beat, or humming), or social, i.e., as communicating to the researcher (e.g., communicating with smiling or head nodding).

Here, we study differences between facial and bodily reactions to music in young adults (YA), older adults (OA), and older adults with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These were categorized as one of 5 musical or one of 6 social reaction types based on a coding scheme developed during exploratory work on a subset of the present dataset (Belyea, et al., 2017). Our aim was to explore the framework of an embodied approach to the interpretation of the data.

Main contribution
Using video footage of a previous study (Cuddy, et al., 2017), two naïve raters separately coded participants’ first facial or bodily reaction. In the study, each participant had listened to 12 instrumental excerpts and reported any elicited autobiographical memories. Twenty-one YA, 19 OA, and 19 AD videos were coded. Reliability between coders was high: Of 694 coded reactions there was 95.5% agreement on category assignment among raters, and 89.3% agreement on reaction type among raters.
For each participant we calculated the likelihood of social and musical reactions and the variety of social and musical reaction types for trials where a memory was reported. Likelihood was calculated by dividing the number of coded reactions (up to a maximum of 12) by the number of trials with a memory (up to a maximum of 12). Variety was calculated by dividing the number of coded different reaction types (up to a maximum of 5 for musical and 6 for social reactions) by the number of reaction types in that category (5 and 6 respectively). For a participant with memories in 7 trials who was coded as tapping to the beat in 5 trials and smiling in the other two, likelihood of a musical reaction is 71.4%, likelihood of a social reaction is 28.6%, variety of musical reaction types is 20%, and variety of social reaction types is 16.7%.
To study the influence of age we compared YA to the combined group of OA and AD. We found different effects of age on the two categories. Both YA and OA/AD showed greater likelihood and variety of social reactions than musical reactions. This difference was greater in YA. The older group (OA/AD) showed greater likelihood and variety of musical reactions than YA. The opposite pattern emerged for social reactions.
To study the influence of disease we compared OA to AD participants. OA showed greater variety of social reactions compared to musical reactions. The difference was not apparent in AD, who showed greater variety of musical and less variety of social reactions compared to OA.

Implications for musicological interdisciplinarity
We postulate two mechanisms behind the reduction of social reactions in OA/AD, and specifically in AD participants. First, considering the socio-cultural setting of the experiment we note: All participants interacted with a student researcher. Thus YA participants interacted with a peer unlike OA/AD participants. This emphasizes the communicative function for social reactions. Second, the further disease related decrease in social reactions may be related to the decline in social and nonverbal communication in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease (Fromm & Holland, 1989).
Of particular interest is the observed pattern for musical reactions. Given the choice of musical stimuli, which ranged from classical to folk music, the greater likelihood and variety of musical reactions in OA/AD compared to YA participants may be due to their greater exposure and more likely past embodied engagement with that particular music. Several musical excerpts were dances. Future studies may use a wider selection of stimuli to study whether music to which one is meant to dance are more likely to elicit musical reactions.
The greater variety of musical reactions in AD compared to OA participants is most interesting in light of the preservation of musical memories. Facial and bodily reactions may serve a constituent role in accessing these memories. Adding an embodied perspective to cognitive science may thus provide new ideas about mechanisms behind an effect.

Paula Rojas, Directed Lab student, for completing her Directed Lab course with us. She successfully presented her work from her time as a SWEP student in our lab at NeuroMusic. She also recently received an Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Fund award to present her work from her time as a Directed Lab student at the upcoming Canadian Psychological Association Convention – the abstract is shown below. Congratulations, Paula!

Joint music making makes friends

Cui, A.X., Rojas, P., Brook, J.E., & Cuddy, L.L.

Does joint music making lead to closer interpersonal relationships (social bonding)? This question is of interest to educators and psychologists, yet research has focused solely on joint music making’ influence on variables assumed to underlie or lead to social bonding, e.g., prosocial behaviors, or sympathy (Schellenberg, Corrigall, Dys, & Malti, 2015). Here, we aimed to measure joint music making’s effect on the outcome, social bonds themselves.

Thirty-two grade 2 to 5 students from a newly amalgamated elementary school listed their friends, i.e., social bonds they had formed, in fall 2016 and spring 2017. Two groups participated in “Sistema”, an intensive group music program, between these two times. One (n = 10) had participated in “Sistema” previously (2015/16); the other (n = 13) started participation in fall 2016. The control group (n = 9) were classmates not participating in “Sistema”. No other similarly intensive extra-curricular activity was offered at the school.

We found a significant interaction of time and group on the number of times children were named as friends. “Sistema” participants were named more often, particularly in spring 2017. Further, for “Sistema” participants the proportion of nominations from other “Sistema” participants to nominations from children in the same grade increased with time.

Both analyses indicate that participation in “Sistema” increased participants’ social bonds, especially within “Sistema”. Our results underline the importance of providing these types of programs for children. More research is needed to show whether this effect is exclusive to music programs, its intensity, and its extra-curricular setting.

Paulina Malcolm, former Directed Lab student, for presenting her work from her time as Directed Lab student at ICMPC! She had received an Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Fund award to present this work. We are very proud!

Pedro Neto, visiting student, for completing his research visit with us. Pedro is now a masters student in the Neuroscience and Cognition program at the Federal University of ABC in Brazil. To our huge surprise he very much enjoyed the frigid January temperatures. Many thanks to Paula, who volunteered her time to help run Pedro’s study!

Lab members:

Our Ph.D. student Anja-Xiaoxing Cui is at Maastricht University for the summer completing a research project with the support of a MITACS Globalink Award under the supervision of Prof. Sonja A. Kotz at the Basic & Applied NeuroDynamics Laboratory. Bon voyage, Anja! You can hear her talking about music psychology on a recent episode of the Song Appeal Podcast!

Here are updates also on a few of our recent lab members:

Andrew Belyea, former SWEP student, is now a student at Queen’s Medical School. He recently published his work from his time as the Margaret Angus Research Fellow on the Spanish Flu in Kingston in CMAJ. Congratulations, Andrew! You can find the article here or a publicly available version here.

Ashley Vanstone, former Ph.D. student, is now a clinical psychologist for the North Somerset Later Life Inpatient Therapies & Psychological Therapies Service in North Somerset, England. Ashley will be happy to hear from friends at ashley.vanstone<at>

Emma Walton, former SWEP student and Directed Lab student, is finishing her master’s thesis at the Center for Neuroscience! Good luck on writing, Emma!

Hannah Ramsay, former SWEP student, has been accepted to Queen’s University’s M.D./Ph.D. program. Congratulations, Hannah! Her research at the Department of Chemistry will be supported through an NSERC scholarship.

Jodi Chan, former Directed Lab student, has been working as a research assistant at the University of Hong Kong. She is excited to start a new chapter as a graduate student in Computer Science in Great Britain for the upcoming year! Bon voyage, Jodi!

Kristen Silveira, former Directed Lab student, is currently a Ph.D. student in Neuropsychology at the University of Victoria. Her NSERC funded doctoral work implements a yoga intervention for survivors of childhood trauma.

Melina Dederichs, former DAAD visiting student, is currently a Ph.D. student at the Heinrich Heine Universität in Düsseldorf, at the Institut für Arbeits-, Sozial-, und Umweltmedizin. Good luck, Melina!

Nicholas Smith, former student, is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri. More information on how to get in touch with Nicholas can be found here.

June 20, 2018

Welcome to the new edition of the Music Cognition Laboratory Newsletter!

In this issue:

What we have been up to in the last few months,
updates on the comings and goings of our lab,
and a call for participation in an ongoing research project!

Congratulations to:

Ph.D. candidate Anja-Xiaoxing Cui at the Spring School 2018 at the University of CologneAnja-Xiaoxing Cui, Ph.D. candidate, for presenting her work at the Spring School 2018: “Language, Music, and Cognition: Organizing Events in Time” at the University of Cologne. Her attendance was supported through a Canadian Psychological Association’s Student Research and Knowledge Dissemination Grant.

Paulina Malcolm, Directed Lab student, for completing her Directed Lab course with us. She will present her work together with Anja at the upcoming 15th International Conference for Music Perception and Cognition in Montreal. Her attendance is made possible through an Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Fund grant. The title and abstract appear below.

Influence of prior knowledge on statistical learning of music

Cui, A.X., Malcolm, P.M., Müller, T.S., Troje, N.F., & Cuddy, L.L.

Musical stimuli present a unique opportunity to examine the influence of prior knowledge on statistical learning. Knowledge of pitch distributions of music may be acquired through past informal exposure (Cui, Diercks, Troje, & Cuddy, 2016) or formal music training (Cuddy & Badertscher, 1987). Using the latter’s variance in the population we can ask whether it corresponds to variance in statistical learning ability (Siegelman, Bogaerts, Christiansen, & Frost, 2017).

Here, we examine the influence on statistical learning of participants’ prior music exposure to pitch distributional information.

Thirty-four participants listened to 160 tone sequences each followed by a probe-tone, judging each probe-tone’s fit with the prior sequence. In one block, sequences were generated from an unfamiliar tone distribution. In the other, sequences were generated from a distribution typical for a piece written in C-major, considered a distribution familiar to participants exposed to Western music. The four probe-tones either occurred (congruent) or did not occur (incongruent) in the sequence. Probe-tones were identical for both blocks but differed in their congruency to the distributions. Concurrently we recorded EEG data using EGI HydroCel Nets. We analysed the mean amplitude of a 40 ms time window centred around the maximal peak 380-450 ms post probe-tone onset, corresponding to the time window of the P3b component.

An ANOVA on the proportion of times each probe-tone was judged “fitting”, with factors distribution, probe-tone, and block order, revealed an interaction between distribution and probe-tone, F(3, 78) = 79.28, p <.001. Congruent probe-tones were judged “fitting” more often. Hits and false alarm rates corresponding to the judged fit of congruent and incongruent tones, respectively, were converted to measures of sensitivity d’, higher for the familiar than the unfamiliar distribution,  t(33) = 5.62, p < .001, and response bias C, more conservative for the familiar than the unfamiliar distribution, t(33) = 2.97, p = .005. Years of music training and sensitivity correlated positively for the familiar distribution, r(32) = .40, p = .018, but not for the unfamiliar, or with C for either distribution, ps > .05. Analysis of the EEG data found a significant effect of congruency at frontal electrodes for the familiar, F(1, 33) = 8.83, p = .006, but not for the unfamiliar distribution, p > .05.

Participants were sensitive to the distributional information in the tone sequences. The difference in sensitivity between distributions supports our hypothesis that prior knowledge influences responses. Moreover, the association with music training for the familiar and lack thereof for the unfamiliar distribution shows that prior knowledge and music training influence responses in specific cases but not statistical learning itself.
The exaggerated P3b component for incongruent tones in the familiar distribution suggests that this component represents a violation of knowledge represented in long-term memory, as it was absent when participants listened to the unfamiliar distribution. This allows us to analyse the P3b component in participants exposed to an unfamiliar distribution for a period of time in order to examine the trajectory of musical knowledge in future studies.

Jenni Saslove, Directed Lab student, for completing her Directed Lab with us. Her work was part of a presentation at the Department of Psychiatry Research Day on May 30th.

The Badass Brahms Chamber Collective for successful performances on March 11th as part of the Inside Agnes series, and a wind concerto recital featuring Copland’s clarinet concerto and Vaughan Williams’ tuba concerto on June 10th.

Lab members:

In the spring term of 2018, we have greatly benefitted from the assistance of Directed Lab students Paulina Malcolm and Jenni Saslove. Jenni’s project could not have happened without the volunteer assistance of Matthew Crocker, who presented this work together with Anja at the Department of Psychiatry Research Day on May 30th. The same poster was also presented at the “Symposium on Aging: Dispelling Myths and Building Bridges”. The title and abstract appear below:

Short-Term Behavioral Change while Listening to Music in Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease

Cui, A.X., Saslove, J., Crocker, M., Cuddy, L.L.

Can music serve as a tool to engage participants with memory loss? Previous research reported preservation of musical memory in an Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) patient (Cuddy & Duffin, 2005). Recently, Belyea et al. (2017) explored short-term behavioral engagement of older adults who listened to 12 excerpts of familiar music and reported memories elicited by the music. Comparing AD to healthy controls, Belyea et al. noted that AD participants showed a significantly greater variety and probability of musical reactions, i.e., reactions to rhythmic or melodic elements of the music. However, there was no significant difference between the two groups for social reactions, i.e., communicative reactions about the valence or presence of memories. The purpose of the present study is to validate and extend the exploratory findings of Belyea et al. with two naïve raters blind to the previous findings and hypotheses. To this end, we developed a new standardized protocol for recording observable reactions using inqScribe. Next, raters examined the video records and coded any occurring behavioral responses and their latency during the music. Inter-rater reliability was high, e.g., raters disagreed about the category of reaction (musical vs. social) in only 7.1% of 521 coded reactions. Analyses of variety and probability of reactions, as well as analyses of latency of these reactions will be presented. We will then relate music-evoked autobiographical memories to music-evoked behavior. This will in turn further our understanding of the relationship between music and memory in AD, helping us address concerns surrounding AD patient care.

We are also welcoming three new members to our lab this summer. Welcome to Marvin Heimerich from the University of Cologne, MITACS intern, Paula Rojas, SWEP student, and Chiara Gottheil, volunteer!

Bon voyage to Dr. Ashley Vanstone, who is leaving for Bristol, UK! Ashley will be happy to hear from friends at ashley.vanstone<at>

Other news:

Paula is looking for participants for her study! In particular, if you have had up to one year of group music training, we invite you to contact her at 13ppir<at> to participate in a short study on music perceptual skills. The study takes about 30 minutes and to thank you for your time you will be given $5.

January 22, 2018

Welcome to the inaugural Music Cognition Laboratory Newsletter!

The goal is to provide an overview of what is going on in our lab on a regular basis – stay tuned for more!

In this issue:

Happy news from the Music Cognition Laboratory,
updates on the comings and goings in our lab,
and announcement of a summer research position opening!

Congratulations to:

Lola Cuddy for election to Fellow in the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science, 2017

Ashley Vanstone for a successful doctoral thesis defense August 9, 2017. The title and abstract of his thesis appear below.

Musical Engagement in Alzheimer Disease

A.D. Vanstone

Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by progressive memory loss and deterioration of functional abilities, but anecdotal and clinical observations suggest that many individuals with AD continue to respond in meaningful ways to music, sometimes well into the course of the disease. Previous research in the psychology and neuroscience of music has established that some music cognitive and perceptual abilities are less affected by AD than others, but it is unclear what implications these preserved abilities have for how individuals with AD engage with music in their daily lives. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the relationship between music cognition and engagement. Study 1 examined episodic, implicit, and semantic memory for melodies in participants with AD relative to older adult and younger adult control groups. AD participants showed impaired ability to form new memories for melodies, but their semantic memory for melodies was on par with that of the older and younger control participants. Study 2 addressed the need for an informant-report measure of music engagement. 35 items were created in parallel self-report and informant-report formats. Exploratory factor analysis of data from a large development sample guided the construction of six subscales, each of which showed high internal reliability. A further study showed a high correlation between self-report and informant-report versions in a sample of older adult respondents. Study 3 explored patterns of association between semantic memory for melodies, melody perception, and music engagement in a series of 15 AD cases. No single cognitive or perceptual ability was sufficient to explain cases of high music engagement. Heterogeneity between cases supports the hypothesis that there are multiple pathways by which music engagement may be sustained in those with AD. Individual cases are examined to draw out implications for basic and clinical research on music and AD.  

Anja-Xiaoxing Cui, Ph.D. Candidate, who received a Canadian Psychological Association Grant for Student Research and Knowledge Dissemination. Anja is a Vanier Scholar, and will use the grant to present her research at the Spring School “Language, Music, and Cognition: Organizing Events in Time” at the University of Cologne, Germany.

Paulina Malcolm, Directed Lab student, who received an Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Fund grant to present her work at a future conference.

The Badass Brahms Chamber Collective for several successful performances in 2017. The next performance will be at 2 pm on March 11th 2018, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, as part of the Inside Agnes series.

Lab members:

In the winter term of 2017, we have greatly benefitted from the assistance of Directed Lab students Jodi Chan and Victoria Fry. Victoria presented her work at the 13th Annual NeuroMusic Conference. The title and abstract of her poster appears below. Jodi’s research was part of Andrew Belyea’s presentation at the Department of Psychiatry Research Day 2017.

Implied Harmony – Easy as 1, 2, 3?

Anja-Xiaoxing Cui, Victoria Fry, Julia E. Brook, Lola L. Cuddy

The purpose of this research was to examine the longitudinal effect of music training on knowledge of scale-membership and implied harmony over and above the typical developmental trends found in previous cross-sectional research (Krumhansl & Shepard, 1979; Trainor & Trehub, 1994). An opportunity arose when a local elementary school established an intensive music-training program. Thirty-two students were tested before and after five months of the program. One group had six months of music training prior to the program (n = 9); the other had no prior training (n = 13). An additional group was tested at the same times as the other groups but did not participate in the program (n = 10). Participants judged melodies whose endings differed in scale- and triad-membership. We analyzed the percentage of trials, in which participants indicated the ending as fitting, to glean whether they differentiated scale- from nonscale-tones, and triad- from nontriad-tones. Results showed no clear pattern relating amount of music training and age to changes in knowledge over the course of five months. Because the participants were in the beginning stages of learning their instrument, it could be that focus on instrumental technique precluded accelerated development of perceptual differentiation. Nonetheless it is surprising that age did not have an effect on knowledge of scale-membership and implied harmony. Possibly, five months is too short a duration to observe changes in this knowledge, or perhaps a specific teaching focus is needed to assist in the accelerated development thereof.

In the summer term of 2017, we have greatly benefitted from the volunteer assistance of Tina Cai and Nicka Kalaydina. They helped conduct the research that formed the basis for the proposal that Anja submitted to the Canadian Psychological Association.

In the fall term of 2017, we hosted three Directed Lab students: Jenni Saslove, Paulina Malcolm, and Tasja Mueller. Jenni was assisted by Matthew Crocker and worked on furthering the project started by Andrew and Jodi. Paulina and Tasja’s work will hopefully be presented at a conference this summer! Tasja unfortunately had to return to her home university in the Netherlands, but Paulina, Jenni, and Matthew continue to work with us in the winter term of 2018.

In the summer term of 2018, we look forward to welcoming Marvin Heimerich, from the University of Cologne, as a MITACS intern.

Other news:

We have posted a job description for a summer research assistant in 2018 at the SWEP program at Career Services. SWEP applications for this summer are due at Career Services February 9, 2018. This position is open to Queen’s University students only.