Rhythm & Brains Lab


Musical rhythm is a cross-cultural, non-verbal means of communication that has the power to make us move. Therefore, understanding the neural processing of musical rhythm can provide key insight at the intersection between basic neuroscience research, humanities and the arts. It is also increasingly proven successful to develop effective strategies for the functional evaluation and rehabilitation of pathological conditions as diverse as hearing impairment, cochlear implants, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Our goal is to understand how the human brain is able to make sense of and produce musical rhythm. Key questions that we address in our research are how this ability for rhythm is influenced by culture, individual differences, or body movement. Moreover, we investigate how our ability for musical rhythm is embodied in a network of brain areas, and how entraining to musical rhythm can help brain-damaged patients to recover from sensory or motor deficits.

To address these fascinating questions, we use functional neuroimaging techniques (scalp and intracerebral electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging) combined with novel techniques to selectively tag the brain activity in response to rhythmic inputs such as music, rhythmic visual displays, rhythmic tactile input or rhythmic movement of the body.

The Rhythm & Brains Lab is an enthusiastic and highly diverse group currently hosting post-doctoral fellows, and PhD students, including audiologists, ENT doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and biomedical engineers from five different nationalities. The team is sponsored by local, national and international funding bodies including ERC, FNRS and UCLouvain, and also the Australian Research Council, promoting our collaborations within and outside Europe.

Ongoing projects :

  • Intracerebral recordings of human brain activity in response to rhythm
  • Culture-driven neural plasticity of rhythm processing
  • How sensory modalities shape rhythm processing
  • How body movement shapes rhythm processing
  • Rhythm processing in non hearing people
  • Rhythm categorization and machine learning approaches
  • Neurodevelopment of rhythm processing in humans
  • Cross-species differences in rhythm processing

Key publications:

  • Infants show enhanced neural responses to musical meter frequencies beyond low‐level features. T Lenc, V Peter, C Hooper, PE Keller, D Burnham, S Nozaradan. Developmental Science 26 (5), e13353
  • Mapping between sound, brain and behaviour: Four-level framework for understanding rhythm processing in humans and non-human primates. T Lenc, H Merchant, PE Keller, H Honing, M Varlet, S Nozaradan. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 376 (1835), 20200325.
  • Neural tracking of the musical beat is enhanced by low-frequency sounds. T Lenc, PE Keller, M Varlet, S Nozaradan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115 (32), 8221-8226