Ongoing research

  • Alliage In this research, the overarching objective is to study the behavioral and neural processes underlying the interpersonal processes that make music performance and listening such a unique experience. Recently, we have developed a successful approach, established by information-based theories for characterizing the types of interaction within musical ensembles starting from the analysis of body movement (e.g., expressive coordination, leadership). However, a clarified understanding of the neural systems involved in these collaborative and expressive processes has not been achieved yet. One critical aspect of sensorimotor communication includes the musician’s ability to decode the behavior of others and generate the appropriate signals to be decoded by the interacting participants without any words. Our project aims at investigating the neural dynamics reinforcing the human processing of non-verbal expressive behavior using musical context as test-bed. Specifically, this study will utilize multimodal setups including motion capture system, audio and video to record musical performances. We will consider live performance in both naturalistic and in virtual immersive environments. The use of these virtual immersive system models will enable us to maintain a higher control of environmental and social factors affecting music expression (e.g. behaviors of the audience using avatars). Synchronized multimodal recordings will then be used as stimuli to investigate the perceptual and behavioral responses of musicians and untrained participants. Both behavioral and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques will be used to test the involvement of motor and brain regions known to be involved in the representation of human motion and expressive behaviors (e.g., superior temporal sulcus) and to analyze how the expressivity features are processed and decoded at the brain level in the context of the theory of embodiment. (Funding for three year by the Swiss National Science Foundation).

  • Expectation A research on the role of musical expectations in the induction of emotions. Musical expectations apart of providing information-processing aspects about musical perception, attribute at the expression of emotions. The knowledge of musical system is a crucial element for musical expectations. In this research we tend to show that different expectations will arise different emotions by comparing distinct expressivity, non-musicians vs MIDI, and different expertise in music, musicians vs non-musicians. To test that we will use 4 musical stimuli of classical music and we will collect the subjective feeling of participants.

  • Impact This research aims to study, with the help of music theory, music pratice, psychology and neuroscience, the relationships between conceptual metaphors, music, and emotion. One crucial question in the domain of music and emotion is how artistic performances can induce emotions. The investigators proposed to address this question in four lines of research: (1) the dimensional organization of conceptual metaphors related to body, gestures, and space in the musical domain, (2) to investigate the relationships between these kinds of conceptual metaphors and musical emotions and the underlying musical structures and acoustical features, (3) how conceptual metaphors can impact on musical performances and how the audience perceive these modulations, especially in terms of emotions, and (4) how these conceptual metaphors related to music and how different levels of expressivity are processed and decoded at the brain level. In this interdiscplinary project, behavioral measures, including explicit judgments as well as implicit measures such as musical gestures and body motions will be used in order to investigate how conceptual metaphors are essential in musical performances during production and perception. The embodied view of conceptual metaphors will be investigated using brain imaging techniques to test the involvment of specific brain regions in their generation. Furthermore, brain imaging will also be used as a tool revealing how different levels of expressivity are processed and decoded at the brain level. Actually, this project is interdsicplinary at least at two levels: (1) the concepts and questions coming from music theory combined with the ones from psychology and affective neuroscience and (2) the methods used will come both from the practice of music and from classic psychology as well as from neuroscience. Beyond the fundamental scientific contributions, the teaching of music will also benefit from these project results by defining conceptual metaphor dimensions essential in musical pratice and music theory. Finally, this project aims also to promote the communication with the public and several events will be organized to show the effects of the interactions between science and arts. The results of this project will also bring new perspectives of the relationships between music and emotions and will certainly enlighten the roots of the human fascination for music. (Funding for three year by the Swiss National Science Foundation).

  • Resonance Research on singing, body resonances and expressiveness i.e. the impact of “voice positioning” on singing quality and expressiveness. (Awareness and use of different parts of torso, abdominal and pelvic belts will be studied).

  • vCool Characterizes the ability of a musician to manage the Music Performance Anxiety (MPA) in the context of public performance using virtual reality resources. Our goal is to study the mechanisms of adaptation and behavioral strategies that musicians are developing to address different audiences (eg. benevolent public, annoyed or sparse audience) in different contexts and conditions (eg competition, presence a jury, concert hall, important lighting etc.). So we can test the effectiveness of this form of cognitive behavioral intervention to increase the quality of the performance, reduce the physiological symptoms and reduce the subjective level of anxiety and develop a virtual device that provides students the ability to build behavioral strategies and coping mechanisms.(IRMAS)

Former projects

  • Gestème and Gestuaire The two projects focus on the production of musical gestures which communicate musical emotions through the expressivity of the musician. Gestème involves the orchestra and the composition and theory department of the Geneva University of Music, the choreography departments of the CNSMD Lyon, the Neuroscience of Emotion and Affective Dynamics lab and the  Swiss Center for Affective Sciences. The collaborators of the project Gestème have studied the involvement of the body and gestures in the creative process of a piece of music, in the musicians’ performance, and in the metaphorical descriptions and related emotions made by the listeners. The link between musical gestures and feelings of the listener lies at the heart of a major scientific issue in theoretical models on the genesis of emotions. Indeed, some authors suggest that the involvement of the body in perception is essential (embodiment theory) while others consider that this involvement is not necessary (semantic networks theory). Listening to a highly expressive piece of music could involve to a certain extent body representations and/or movements related to gestural and/or spatial metaphors. This question can be investigated by using various methods which involve muscle and brain activation measures in regions or areas known for their motor planning, preparation and even motor command functions. Thus, the study of the neural underpinnings of gestural metaphors and of psychological processes related to the emotions they elicit and convey will help to better characterize the levels of representations –motor and semantic in particular– involved in the process of interpreting and perceiving a musical piece. Different methods of investigation are used, such as behavioral methods, thermography,  functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and electroencephalography (EEG). In this project, an adaptation of the Brunswik’s lens model (1955) will be subject to special attention to better understand the emotional communication within a musical performance. This model allows a comprehensive analysis of the musical creative process, encompassing the encoding phase (i.e. the compositor and/or musician) and the decoding phase (i.e. the audience), both involved in the communication of emotional states and processes. One of the many advantages of this model is that it provides the opportunity to study not only a single entity (e.g. the emotional response of the listeners) but also the interactions between the various entities involved in the process (e.g. the investigation of musical elements in the score and the impact on the emotional response of the listeners).

  • [grɛ̃] Studied the involvement of the body and gesture in the play of the musicians as they peform. New levels of granularity 5 of the academic/emphatic paradigm have been tested.

  • Métakinésis The Métakinésis project is a research on the role of the body and gesture in the metaphorical descriptions of the musical experience, the semantic analysis of listener’s corporeal and gestural metaphors . The project leader is Francesco Spampinato (IDEAT, CNRS Paris 1 – Sorbonne University UPMAT Rome). The project has involved about 80 students of the Geneva University of Music.

  • MIE (Music Images Emotions) project explores the emotional link between music and images. It focuses on the different types of emotional synchronization and on possible invariants involved in associations, such as the dynamic effect of a pictorial composition and musical rhythms, geometric constructions and musical lines or forms, textures and timbres, colors and sounds. Instrumental musical excerpts are selected according to their emotional content and on the basis of the Geneva Emotional Music Scale model (GEMS): peacefulness, tenderness, wonder, joyful activation, tension, nostalgia, power, transcendence and sadness. The images are classified into three categories: landscape, people and abstraction.

  • Mimicry This research, based on the theories of embodiment and mimicry, exploits the researches about mirror neurons and the evidence of a cortical specialization for musicians in the brain, to explore the relations between musical training, expressivity and muscles activation during perception. We tend to show that there are subtle activations in specific muscles for two groups of musicians in comparison to music experts and non-musicians when they listen to music. To test this we use audio stimuli of classical pieces played with three expressivity degrees and we record electromyography on selective muscles for the four experimental groups.

  • MP/Percu This research aims to address the impact of rhythms on music and their relationships with various affective and cognitive processes by using an interdisciplinary approach which combines subjective reports, autonomic measures, brain imaging and direct intracranial neuronal recordings. Firstly, the relationships between different musical rhythms and metaphors involving the body and gestures will be examined, mainly from a dynamic perspective. The main purpose is to test to what extent these rhythms are reliably correlated to body and gestural metaphors and how these verbal and cognitive representations are organized in the brain. Secondly, the embodiment hypothesis of metaphors and rhythms using brain imaging combined with body measures will be tested. The experiment will determine how the different musical rhythms induce invariant metaphors and how significantly the brain activity related to pre-motor and motor areas in the basal ganglia increases. Lastly, the manner in which the neuronal activity is correlated to the different rhythms within the motor areas of the internal globus pallidus (GPi) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN) will be examined. The main purpose of this part is to test entrainment phenomena at a neuronal level using local field potential measures in humans. In partnership with le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Rennes (CHU), Prof. Marc Vérin.

  • Ter/LP This research was established after a collaboration with the Quartetto di Cremona in the European project SIEMPRE. The purpose of this experiment is to investigate the impact of the modulation of the musical expressiveness on people. A thermographic camera will be used to detect extremely small changes in human facial temperature, a sign of emotional response, against different modes of emotional expressiveness. In parallel, this experiment studies the dynamic judgments of emotions expressed by music in the context of live performances.This experiment is conducted with the invaluable collaboration of the Terpsycordes quartet.

  • Ve2 and V3 The goal was to study the impacts induced by the conditions of the artistic performance. Immersive virtual reality allows combined approaches and systemic analysis on behavioral, physiological and cerebral aspects. Our system includes a 3D visual immersion, several modules capable of simulating movements and varying the auditory feedback, and an olfactometric system which stimulates the sense of smell. Virtual immersion enables researchers to develop projects to re-educate or rehabilitate participants by exposing them to scenes which generate or evoke difficulties they experience in different activities. These projects provide training and lead to cognitive and/or affective improvements. The goal of this research is to systematically study the impacts induced by the conditions of the artistic performance. These conditions are controlled by virtual reality and may represent performance spaces of varying sizes (e.g. concert hall) or a more or less receptive audience. A detailed analysis of musical gesture through a motion capture system helps to characterize such contextual impacts.

  • Visual A study and examination of visual and spatial metaphors associated with musical spaces. Critical examination of their suggestive powers and their relevance to represent musical phenomena.