Why do people enjoy music? Can everyone dance? What are potential benefits of music for humans? I am a cognitive-neuroscientist-slash-used-to-be-performing-clarinettist, intrigued by the human mind and passionate about music. In my research, I hope to answer questions like these and many more! Currently, funded by an NWO Veni grant, I focus on how we perceive and produce rhythm. I work as an assistant professor at the Cognitive Psychology Unit of Leiden University, and am an affiliate of the Music Cognition Group and the Amsterdam Music Lab.

Updated chapter on probing beat perception with ERPs out in Neurobiology of Interval Timing

Now officially out: our updated chapter on how to probe beat perception in human adults, newborns, and nonhuman primates. With Henkjan Honing and Gábor Háden, and with many thanks to Hugo Merchant for inviting us to update our chapter from 10 years ago. We discuss what the different aspects of rhythm are that can be probed with ERPs, and how to design stimuli that induce a beat in various ways. We also review how this has been done in human adults, newborns, and nonhuman primates.

The chapter can be found here: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-031-60183-5_13. An open access preprint of the chapter (identical to the published version) is available on OSF: https://osf.io/preprints/psyarxiv/azk9q.

Participate in research! How musical are you? (Dutch only)

Weten de mensen om jou heen hoeveel je met muziek hebt? Of weet je dit van de mensen om jou heen? Wij onderzoeken of iemand voor een ander kan inschatten hoeveel betekenis diegene aan muziek geeft. Dit kan bijvoorbeeld belangrijk zijn bij muziektherapie.


  • Zoek een tweede deelnemer die je goed kent, zoals je partner, een familielid die dichtbij staat of een goede vriend(in)
  • Volg deze link om de vragenlijst van ongeveer 30 minuten over de muzikaliteit van jezelf of de ander in te vullen
  • Je kan meedoen als je 16 jaar of ouder bent, en geen ernstige gehoorproblemen of neurologische/psychiatrische aandoening hebt


  • Een leuk gesprek met je naaste!
  • Kans op één van de 10 cadeaubonnen van 25 euro

Preprint: “A silent disco: Persistent entrainment of low-frequency neural oscillations underlies beat-based, but not pattern-based temporal expectations”

Is something special about beat-based expectations in rhythm? In this paper, we try to find out! The preprint is now fully updated with all the latest analyses, and online on bioRxiv:

Bouwer, F.L., Fahrenfort, J.J., Millard, S.K., Kloosterman, N.A., Slagter, H.A. (preprint). A silent disco: Persistent entrainment of low-frequency neural oscillations underlies beat-based, but not pattern-based temporal expectations. bioRxiv, 2020.01.08.899278; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.08.899278

Temporal expectations (e.g., predicting “when”) facilitate sensory processing, and are suggested to rely on entrainment of low frequency neural oscillations to regular rhythmic input, such as a beat in music (“beat-based” expectations). However, temporal expectations can also be based on predictable repeated patterns (“pattern-based” expectations). These two types of expectations often occur simultaneously, but whether they are subserved by the same neural mechanisms is currently a topic of active debate. Here, we addressed this outstanding issue by examining EEG activity and behavioral responses during silent periods following rhythmic auditory sequences designed to elicit only beat-based or pattern-based expectations, or with random timing. In Experiment 1 (N = 32), participants rated how well probe tones at various time points fitted the previous rhythm. Beat-based expectations affected fitness ratings for at least two beat-cycles, while the effects of pattern-based expectations subsided after the first expected time point in the silence window. In Experiment 2 (N = 27), using EEG, we found a Contingent Negative Variation (CNV) following the final tones of pattern-based, but not beat-based sequences. Moreover, we found enhanced power in the EEG signal at the beat frequency for beat-based sequences both during listening and the silence, while for pattern-based sequences, enhanced power at a pattern-specific frequency was only present during listening, not during the silence. Finally, we show how multivariate pattern decoding and multi scale entropy – measures sensitive to non-oscillatory components of the signal – can be used to probe temporal expectations. Taken together, we show that beat-based and pattern-based expectations affect behavior differentially, with beat-based expectations exerting longer-lasting effects than pattern-based expectations. At a neural level, climbing activity may specifically reflect pattern-based expectations, while persistent low frequency oscillations may be specific to beat-based expectations. When studying responses to complex rhythmic stimuli, like in music and language, both types of expectations should therefore be considered.

Commentary about individual differences out in Journal of Cognition

My fabulous postdoc supervisor Prof. Heleen Slagter invited me to co-author a commentary about individual differences in the Journal of Cognition. Out now!

Slagter, H. A., & Bouwer, F. L. (2021). Qualitative Versus Quantitative Individual Differences in Cognitive Neuroscience. Journal of Cognition4(1), 49. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/joc.170

Individual differences in cognitive performance can be quantitative or qualitative in nature. Accounting for qualitative as well as quantitative individual differences is of importance for cognitive neuroscience, where a central goal is not only to relate brain function to behavior generally, but also to understand and predict individual behavior from neural data. In turn, cognitive neuroscience can help determine the nature of individual differences by revealing the underlying neural mechanisms and uncover qualitative individual differences that are not immediately apparent from behavioral data, enhancing our understanding of why and how people behave the way they do.

Paper on rhythmic abilities in humans and animals out in Phil Trans

Two years after the fabulous workshop organised by Henkjan Honing, Sonja Kotz, Andrea Ravignani, and Michael Greenfield, the special theme issue on rhythm and rhythmic interactions came out in Philosophical Transactions B, including a paper co-authored by me on how to test rhythmic abilities in human and non-human animals. More on this in my previous post about the preprint. Note that the preprint is identical to the published version and open access.

Bouwer, F.L., Nityananda V., Rouse, A. A., & ten Cate, C. (2021). Rhythmic abilities in humans and non-human animals: a review and recommendations from a methodological perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 376, 20200335. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0335

Rhythmic behaviour is ubiquitous in both human and non-human animals, but it is unclear whether the cognitive mechanisms underlying the specific rhythmic behaviours observed in different species are related. Laboratory experiments combined with highly controlled stimuli and tasks can be very effective in probing the cognitive architecture underlying rhythmic abilities. Rhythmic abilities have been examined in the laboratory with explicit and implicit perception tasks, and with production tasks, such as sensorimotor synchronization, with stimuli ranging from isochronous sequences of artificial sounds to human music. Here, we provide an overview of experimental find- ings on rhythmic abilities in human and non-human animals, while critically considering the wide variety of paradigms used. We identify several gaps in what is known about rhythmic abilities. Many bird species have been tested on rhythm perception, but research on rhythm production abilities in the same birds is lacking. By contrast, research in mammals has primarily focused on rhythm production rather than perception. Many experiments also do not differentiate between possible components of rhythmic abilities, such as processing of single temporal intervals, rhythmic patterns, a regular beat or hierarchical metrical structures. For future research, we suggest a careful choice of paradigm to aid cross-species comparisons, and a critical consideration of the multifaceted abilities that underlie rhythmic behaviour.