Why do people enjoy music? Can everyone dance? What are potential benefits of music for humans? These are fascinating questions, especially if you are, like I am, intrigued by the human mind and love music. I am a cognitive-neuroscience-researcher-slash-used-to-be-performing-clarinettist hoping to answer questions like these and many more.
In my current research, I aim to find out how the human brain can make sense of music in the first place. How do we go from vibrating air to perceiving the rich sensation that music is? More specifically, I am examining how the perception of rhythm relates to general predictive processing in the brain. You can find some of outcomes under Publications. I am of course not doing all of this alone! I am lucky to be collaborating with and working under supervision of the amazing Prof. Dr. Heleen Slagter, Prof. Dr. Henkjan Honing, and Dr. Jessica Grahn, and I am helped by many colleagues and students!
For information about internships and thesis supervision, please email me directly.
In the summer of 2019, I was lucky to be invited to be part of a Lorentz workshop, in which an inspiring group of researchers came together to discuss rhythm from every possible angle. This workshop was instigated by a fabulous organising team:Henkjan Honing, Sonja Kotz, Andrea Ravignani, and Michael Greenfield. The results of all the fruitful discussions will be published soon in a Special Issue in Philosophical Transactions B, including a paper co-authored by me on how to test rhythmic abilities in human and non-human animals.
In the paper, co-authored by Carel ten Cate, Vivek Nityananda, and Andrew Rouse, we discuss how different paradigms are used in different species. For example, birds are often tested on their rhythm perception, while monkeys are often tested on rhythm production, making it very hard to compare their abilities. The paper is now available as a preprint on PsyArxiv!
It was a bit early: 2 am in Hilversum. But also very special to enter the very silent Media Park in the middle of the night, and to have time for an elaborate interview about music, science, and why I happen to always listen to Frozen songs.
Extremely happy to announce that I have been awarded an NWO Veni grant! This personal grant will allow me to continue my research into how we perceive patterns and the beat in musical rhythm for the next 4 years. You can find more information in the NWO press release.
Bouwer, F.L., Honing, H., & Slagter, H.A. (2020). Beat-based and Memory-based Temporal Expectations in Rhythm: Similar Perceptual Effects, Different Underlying Mechanisms
All data, experimental files, and analysis scripts are available here. An open access pre-print of the paper, which is identical in content, is available here. The publishers version can be found here.
Predicting the timing of incoming information allows the brain to optimize information processing in dynamic environments. Behaviorally, temporal expectations have been shown to facilitate processing of events at expected time points, such as sounds that coincide with the beat in musical rhythm. Yet, temporal expectations can develop based on different forms of structure in the environment, not just the regularity afforded by a musical beat. Little is still known about how different types of temporal expectations are neurally implemented and affect performance. Here, we orthogonally manipulated the periodicity and predictability of rhythmic sequences to examine the mechanisms underlying beat-based and memory-based temporal expectations, respectively. Behaviorally and using EEG, we looked at the effects of beat-based and memory-based expectations on auditory processing when rhythms were task-relevant or task-irrelevant. At expected time points, both beat-based and memory-based expectations facilitated target detection and led to attenuation of P1 and N1 responses, even when expectations were task-irrelevant (unattended). For beat-based expectations, we additionally found reduced target detection and enhanced N1 responses for events at unexpected time points (e.g., off-beat), regardless of the presence of memory-based expectations or task relevance. This latter finding supports the notion that periodicity selectively induces rhythmic fluctuations in neural excitability and furthermore indicates that, although beat-based and memory-based expectations may similarly affect auditory processing of expected events, their underlying neural mechanisms may be different.
F.L. Bouwer, H. Honing, & H.A. Slagter (2019). Beat-based and memory-based temporal expectations in rhythm: similar perceptual effects, different underlying mechanisms
Predicting the timing of incoming information allows the brain to optimize information processing in dynamic environments. Behaviorally, temporal expectations have been shown to facilitate processing of events at expected time points, such as sounds that coincide with the beat in musical rhythm. Yet, temporal expectations can develop based on different forms of structure in the environment, not just the regularity afforded by a musical beat. Little is still known about how different types of temporal expectations are neurally implemented and affect performance. Here, we orthogonally manipulated the periodicity and predictability of rhythmic sequences to examine the mechanisms underlying beat-based and memory-based temporal expectations, respectively.
Honing, H., Bouwer, F.L., Prado, L., & Merchant, H. (2018). Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) Sense Isochrony in Rhythm, but Not the Beat: Additional Support for the Gradual Audiomotor Evolution Hypothesis
Charles Darwin suggested the perception of rhythm to be common to all animals. While only recently experimental research is finding some support for this claim, there are also aspects of rhythm cognition that appear to be species-specific, such as the capability to perceive a regular pulse (or beat) in a varying rhythm. In the current study, using EEG, we adapted an auditory oddball paradigm that allows for disentangling the contributions of beat perception and isochrony to the temporal predictability of the stimulus. We presented two rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with a rhythmic sequence in two versions: an isochronous version, that was acoustically accented such that it could induce a duple meter (like a march), and a jittered version using the same acoustically accented sequence but that was presented in a randomly timed fashion, as such disabling beat induction.
M.P. Roncaglia-Denissen, F.L. Bouwer, & H. Honing (2018). Decision Making Strategy and the Simultaneous Processing of Syntactic Dependencies in Language and Music
Despite differences in their function and domain-specific elements, syntactic processing in music and language is believed to share cognitive resources. This study aims to investigate whether the simultaneous processing of language and music share the use of a common syntactic processor or more general attentional resources. To investigate this matter we tested musicians and non-musicians using visually presented sentences and aurally presented melodies containing syntactic local and long-distance dependencies. Accuracy rates and reaction times of participants’ responses were collected.
F.L. Bouwer, J.A. Burgoyne, D. Odijk, H. Honing, & J.A. Grahn (2018). What makes a rhythm complex? The influence of musical training and accent type on beat perception
Perception of a regular beat in music is inferred from different types of accents. For example, increases in loudness cause intensity accents, and the grouping of time intervals in a rhythm creates temporal accents. Accents are expected to occur on the beat: when accents are “missing” on the beat, the beat is more difficult to find. However, it is unclear whether accents occurring off the beat alter beat perception similarly to missing accents on the beat. Moreover, no one has examined whether intensity accents influence beat perception more or less strongly than temporal accents, nor how musical expertise affects sensitivity to each type of accent. In two experiments, we obtained ratings of difficulty in finding the beat in rhythms with either temporal or intensity accents, and which varied in the number of accents on the beat as well as the number of accents off the beat.
I am very happy to report that I am one of 4 recipients of the Distinguished Women Scientists Fund, awarded by the Landelijk Netwerk Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren (Dutch network of women professors). The DWSF is a travel grant, and will allow me to examine rhythm perception in patients with Parkinson’s disease in collaboration with Dr. Jessica Grahn. I am very excited to start this new line of research!