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Conference by Dr. Maria Witek

Musical Groove: Effects on pleasure, body-movement and the brain

Abstract: What is it about certain kinds of rhythms that make people want to dance, and why does it feel good? Groove is a musical quality associated with a pleasurable desire to move. While there is growing evidence for the effect of rhythm on motor networks and for emotionally stimulating music on the reward system, we have yet to understand what happens in the brain when music spontaneously stimulates both movement and emotion. Using online surveys, motion-capture, fMRI and whole-brain computational modelling, we tested the effect of rhythmic complexity – specifically syncopation – on experience of groove. We found a preference for medium syncopation in ratings of pleasurable wanting to move, movement acceleration, sensorimotor synchronization, BOLD activity and effective connectivity of motor and reward networks, and neural metastability. Our work thus demonstrates the musical-structural correlates of groove experience and contributes to our understanding of the roles of both motor and reward systems in embodied-affective engagements with music.

Bio: Maria Witek is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Music in the Brain, Dept. of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University & Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus/Aalborg, Denmark. She holds degrees in musicology from Oslo University and music psychology from Sheffield University, and completed her doctorate in music as a Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford in 2013. Her research addresses the cognitive neuroscience and phenomenology of rhythm, body-movement and pleasure in groove music.


Mar 22 2017


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm




BRAMS - UdeM (Outremont)
1430 boul. Mont-Royal

BRAMS (International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research) is a unique laboratory dedicated to research excellence in the study of music and auditory cognition with a focus on neuroscience. BRAMS is located in Montreal and jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal and McGill University.


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