My research merges Cognitive Neuroscience with the performing arts, i.e., dance, theatre and music. I am one of the founders of modern empirical psychological research in dance with over 15 years of experience in this interdisciplinary field.
I hold a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, and an MA equivalent licentiate in Psychology both from the University of Zurich. In addition, I am also a trained and practicing choreographer. I hold a MA with distinction in Choreography from Laban Trinity Conservatoire of Music and Dance and a postgraduate degree in Dance Culture from the University of Berne.
Studying the cognitive and neuronal responses in relation to the performing arts can provide us with extraordinary insights into the human brain and behaviour. How can a dancer train his or her mind to perform to absolute perfection? When do we experience presence? What does an actor do? The empirical study of such questions can provide us with basic psychological knowledge as well as a huge potential for impact. I am intersted in how dance can help improve the health and wellbeing for people in general and those who suffer from long-term mental and physical issues (i.e., rehabilitation of stroke patients, dealing with depressive symptomes, enhancing confidence and managing body image issues).
I’ve been publishing my research on spectators' and dancers' brain and behaviour in international peer reviewed journals and book chapters. I enjoy sharing my findings and fascination about the effects dance can have on the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us.I use behavioural experiments and qualitative research as well as brain imaging and transcranial magnet stimulation. Where possible, I base my research on ‘embodied practices’ – for more information see my website www.CoCoDanse.com.
Before joining Abertay University, I held Post-Doctoral research positions at the University of Glasgow, University of Surrey, and at INSERM in Paris. I collaborated with internationally acclaimed dance and theatre companies, such as EGIPC in Amsterdam, The Centre National de la Danse in Paris, Rosie Kay (UK), or Fabrique Autonomes des Acteurs, Bataville (F).
My teaching is research informed and I highly value critical reflection and discussion in applying findings from Psychology to contemporary issues present in the 'real' world.
In 2015 I completed my Certificate for Teaching at Higher Education and followed a CPD in Teaching Dance.
Since then, I aim to design modules that allow students to learn on a cognitive and on an embodied level.
As part of a funded student research project, we explored the effects of the learning context (i.e., seating arrangements) with the aim to continously advance students' learning experience.
I am teaching on the undergraduate and postgraduate BPS accredited Psychology programmes and currently supervise in total 10 BSc, MSc and PhD students.
1) The Brain in Action: From Dance to Trance:
This is a new elective module where undergraduate students will learn about the human brain and behaviour in relation to dance and other creative practices. What is unusual in this module is that students will not only hear and read about theories and engage in reflection and critical discussion on existing reserach, but will also physically engage in different research practices. Embodying different disciplines will deepen students' understanding, provide them with research ideas and notably enrich their experiences of interdisciplinary research. Moreover, with a number of visiting guest lecturers, students will have the opportunity to gain insight into applied practices in neighbouring fields of Psychology which will widen their horizon for possible professional trajectories after studying.
2) Biological Psychology, Personality and Individual Differences (postgraduate programme)
Module Tutor (2018/2019):
- Evidence based thinking (UG)
- Biological Psychology, Personality, and Individual Differences (UG & PG)
- Introduction Psychological Research Methods (UG & PG)
- Psychology Honours Project (UG)
- Advanced Research Design and Analysis (UG)
- Student Negotiated Learning (PG)
- Introductory Psychology for Masters (PG)
Previously, I have been teaching on the modules:
- Cognitive Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Qualitative Research Methods
- and led the module Personality and Individual Differences.
Additional Marking on Modules
- Language, Education and the Early Years
My office hours for Spring/Summer 2019 are by appointment only in Psychology on level 5.
My main research interest is in measuring cognitive and emotional processes in real life events, in particular in the performing arts; and how our understanding of expertise and social interaction in the performing arts can beneft the wider public, such as in areas of health and wellbeing.
Over the last ten 15 years, I studied cognitive and neuronal responses to watching dance and more recently in the practice of acting. I am interested in studying how we perceive and represent the body and its movements, in particular in relation to the performing arts and I am fascinated by the effects dance participation has on the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
Dance, for example, is an universal phenomenon with manifold functions. Studying the cognitive, neuronal, physiological, and pschosocial mechanisms in response to either watching dance or participating in dance can provide us extraordinary theoretical and applied insight into the human brain and behaviour. Understanding how dancers can remember movements, perform them easily in different directions in space, or express certain emotions and evoke them in spectators, can help us to enhance the life and well-being of people with long term physical and mental issues.
To study the aesthetic perception of dance moves, I use behavioural experiments, qualitative research as well as brain imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnet stimulation (TMS), see for example www.watchingdance.org. Previously, I have also employed electroencephalography (EEG) to study visuospatial and tactile perception and attention.
Overall, I am intrigued by how research methods relate to their outcomes - and equally, how specific artistic practices link to artists' works. It is of no surprise that I see the future in interdisciplinary research and that my current research emphasises neuroscientific measures and subjective experiences.
Where possible, I base my research on embodied practices, hence, I call it 'embodied neuroscience'. See also my personal homepage on www.CoCoDanse.com.
Recently, with a link to perception and physical activity, my research has further expanded in the fields of food (e.g., Cognitive and behavioural neuroscience of appetite and food choices, psychological, and sensory and physiological influences on appetite and food choices, psychology and ethnography of dietary habits and related contents).
Reason, M., Jola, C., Kay, R., Reynolds, D., Kauppi, JP., Grosbras, MH., Tohka, J., Pollick, F. (2016). Spectators' aesthetic experience of sound and movement in dance performance: a transdisciplinary investigation. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(1), 42-55.
Hieke, S., Palascha, K., Jola, C., Wills, J. W., Raats, M. M. (2016). The pack size effect: influence on consumer perceptions of portion sizes. Appetite, 96, 225-238.
Bachrach, A., Jola, C., Pallier, C. (2016). Neuronal bases of structural coherence in contemporary dance observation. NeuroImage, 124(Pt A), 464-472.
Herbec, A., Kauppi, J-P., Jola, C., Tohka, J., Pollick, F. E. (2015). Differences in fMRI intersubject correlation while viewing unedited and edited videos of dance performance. Cortex, 71, 341–348.
Grabherr, L., Jola, C., Berra, G., Theiler, R., & Mast, F.W. (2015). Motor imagery training improves precision of hand movement in hemiparetic patients. NeuroRehabilitation. 36, 157–166.
Raats, M. M., Hieke, S., Jola, C., Hodgkins, C., Kennedy, J., Wills, J. (2015). Reference amounts utilised in front of package nutrition labelling; impact on product healthfulness evaluations. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 69, 619-625.
Jola, C., Pollick, F.E., & Calvo-Merino, B. (2014) “Some like it hot”: spectators who score high on the personality trait openness enjoy the excitement of hearing dancers breathing without music. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:718.
Noble, K., Glowinski, D., Murphy, H., Jola, C., McAleer, P., Darshane, N., Penfield K., Camurri, A., Pollick, F. E. (2014). Event segmentation and biological motion perception in watching dance. Art & Perception, 2(1-2), 59-74.
Jola, C., Grosbras, M.-H. (2013). In the here and now. Enhanced motor corticospinal excitability in novices when watching live compared to video recorded dance. Cognitive Neuroscience.
Jola, C., McAleer, Ph., Grosbras, M.-H., Love, S.A., Morison, G., Pollick, F.E. (2013). Uni- and multisensory brain areas are synchronised across spectators when watching unedited dance. i-Perception, 4, 265–284.
Jola, C., Ehrenberg, S., Reynolds, D. (2012). The experience of watching dance: phenomenological-neuroscience duets. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 11(1), 17-37.
Jola, C., Abedian-Amiri, A., Kuppuswamy, A., Pollick, F. & Grosbas, M.-H. (2012). Motor simulation without motor expertise: enhanced corticospinal excitability in visually experienced dance spectators. PLoS ONE. 7(3): e33343.
Blaesing, B., Calvo-Merino, B., Cross, E., Jola, C., Honisch, J., Stevens, C. (2012). Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance. Acta Psychologica, 139(2), 300-308.
Jola, C., Davis, A., Haggard, P. (2011). Proprioceptive integration and body representation: insights into dancers’ expertise. Experimental Brain Research, 213(2-3), 257-265.
Jola, C., Grosbras, M.-H., Pollick, F. E. (2011). Arousal decrease in ‘Sleeping Beauty’: audiences’ neurophysiological correlates to watching a narrative dance performance of 2.5 hrs. Dance Research Electronic. 29.2, 378–403.
Nordin, S. M., Walker, I. J., Baker, J., Garner, J., Hardy, C., Irvine, S., Jola, C., Laws, H., & Blevins, P. (2011). Injury, imagery and self-esteem in dance. Healthy minds in injured bodies? Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 15(2), 76-85.
de Vignemont, F., Majid, A., Jola, C., & Haggard, P. (2009). Segmenting the body into parts: evidence from biases in tactile perception. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62, 500-512.
Calvo-Merino, B., Jola, C., Glaser, D. E., & Haggard, P. (2008). Towards a sensorimotor aesthetics of performing art. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 911-922.
Jola, C., & Mast, F. W. (2005). Mental object rotation and egocentric body transformation: two dissociable processes? Spatial Cognition and Computation, 5, 217-237.
Knauff, M., Strube, G., Jola, C., Rauh, R., & Schlieder, C. (2004). The psychological validity of qualitative spatial reasoning in one dimension. Spatial Cognition and Computation, 4, 167-188.
Jola, C. (expected 2019). Empirical Research in an Embodied Practice: Can the Study of Partnering Touch, Touch on Something New? In M. Sarco Thomas (Ed.), Thinking Touch in Partnering and Contact Improvisation: Artistic, Philosophical, and Scientific Approaches. Cambridge Scholars Press, UK.
Jola, C. (2019). Choreographed Science: Merging Dance and Cognitive Neuroscience. In B. Bläsing, M. Puttke, & Th. Schack (Eds.), The neurocognition of dance. Mind, movement and motor skills (2nd Edition). Chapter 13, pp 258-288. Psychology Press: Hove, UK.
Jola, C., & Calmeiro, L. (2017). The dancing queen: Explanatory mechanisms of the ‘feel-good-effect’ in dance. In S. Lycouris, V. Karkou, and S. Oliver (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook for Dance and Wellbeing. Chapater I, pp. 13-40. Oxford University Press.
Jola, C. (on hold - publishing house economic issues). Scientists - Performers - Audiences. Different modes of meaning making. In P. Philippe-Meden & V. Roche (eds). Neuroscènes (collection L'esprit et la cité). Editions Connaissances et Savoirs.
Lippi, D., Jola, C., Jacono, V.-E., & Sofia, G. (2016). Steps towards the art of placing science in the acting practice. A performance-neuroscience perspective. In Z. Kapoula & M. Vernet (eds). Aesthetics and Neurosciences. Scientific and Artistic Perspectives. CNRS publication, Springer. pp.141-163.
Jola, C. (2016). The magic connection: Dancer-audience interaction. In U. Eberlein (ed). Zwischenleiblichkeit und bewegtes Verstehen - Intercorporeity, Movement and Tacit Knowledge, pp. 269-287. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.
Jola, C., & Reason, M. (2016). Audiences’ Experience of Proximity and Co-Presence in live Dance Performance. In C. Falletti, G. Sofia and V. Jacono (Eds.) Theatre and Cognitive Neuroscience. Edition Performance and Science: Interdisciplinary Dialogues, p. 75-92. London/NY: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.
Christensen, J. F. & Jola, C. (2015). Moving towards Ecological Validity in the Research on Cognitive and Neural Processes Involved in Dance Appreciation. In M. Nadal, J. P. Huston, L. Agnati, F. Mora, and C. J. Cela-Conde (Eds). Art, Aesthetics, and the Brain. Chapter 12, pp. 223 - 253. Oxford University Press.
Jola, C. (2013). Do you feel the same way too? Gabriele Brandstetter, Gerko Egert, Sabine Zubarik (Eds). Touching and to be touched. Kinesthesia and Empathy in Dance. DeGruyter: Berlin.
Pollick, F. E., Jola, C., Petrini, K., McKay, L. S., McAleer, Ph., Jang, S. H., MacLeod, Chr., & Simmons, D. (2012) Experience and the perception of biological motion. Chapter 9, Part 3: Perception and Indivicual Differences, in K. L., Johnson, & M. Shiffrar (Eds). People Watching. pp 139-158. Oxford University Press.
Jola, C., Pollick, F. E., & Reynolds, D. (2011) Editors of special issue ’Dance and neuroscience: New Partnerships’ in Dance Research Electronic. 29.2
Jola, C. (2010) Research and choreography – merging dance and cognitive neuroscience. In B. Bläsing, M. Puttke, & Th. Schack (Eds.), The neurocognition of dance. Mind, movement and motor skills (pp. 203-234). Psychology Press: Hove, UK.
Jola, C. (2007). Movement intention: dialectic of internal and external movements – Reflections from cognitive neuroscience. In S. de Lahunta (Ed.), Capturing intention (pp. 62-67). Amsterdam: School of Arts.
Jola, C., & Mast, F. W. (2005). Dance images. Mental imagery processes in dance. In J. Birringer & J. Fenger (Vol. Eds.), Dance and cognition (Vol. 15, pp. 211-232). Münster, NRW, G: LIT.
I act as a reviewer for the following journals:
Advances in Integrative Medicine; Consciousness and Cognition; Dance Research; Development Psychology; Experimental Brain Research; Frontiers in Psychology; Frontiers in Neuroscience; Journal of Cognitive Psychology; Journal of Dance, Medicine and Science; Journal of Psychology, Creativity and the Arts; Neural Plasticity; Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences; Psychonomic Bulletin & Review; Review for Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport; Scientific Reports; and Techné: Research in Philosophy & Technology.
I am the representative of Abertay University in the Dundee Dance Partnership (www.dundeedancepartnership.co.uk) and initiated the Open Dance Dundee Network (www.opendancedundee.wordpress.com) of which I am still an active member.
My research on the effects of dance on the human brain and behaviour has attracted much attention in the wider public. Numerious interviews have been published internationally (i.e. The New York Times, Radio Germany) and my research has been featured in a documentary French-Taiwanese co-production (the Taiwanese version is on youtube).
Through my work as a choreographer, my scientific research also transpires into the artistic world of dance. I enjoy very much interacting with inquiring minds from a variety of backgrounds. For more details on my artistic works see www.CoCoDanse.com.
Recently, Lynn Parker and I participated in the Dundee Park Festival organised by the Scottish Dance Theatre with an interactive dance installation "Everybody Moves".
Scientific presentations and other interviews that are freely accessible online: