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 currently teach on the following modules:
-PSY103: Evidence based thinking: Scientific approaches to studying human behaviour
-PSY208: Cognitive Perspectives on Psychology (Module leader)
-PSY301: Biological Psychology and Individual Differences
-PSY303: Advanced Research, Design and Analysis
-PSY315: Evidence-based thinking: Advanced perspectives on human behaviour
-PSY410: Honours projects (Supervision of approx. 6-8 honours projects studentseach year in various topics frequently around physical activity and somatic practices (yoga, mindfulness) and social interaction)
-PSY420: Work Placement module
Previously, I have been teaching on the modules of Applied Psychology and Masters Research Methods, and I led the module Individual Differences. Until 2022, I also thought the option module PSY309: The Brain in Action: From Dance to Trance
This was an option module where students learnt about the human brain and behaviour in relation to dance and other creative practices. It included activities to embody different disciplines in order to strenghten students' understanding, provide them with research ideas and notably enrich their experiences of interdisciplinary research. With a number of visiting guest lecturers, students had the opportunity to gain insight into applied practices in neighbouring fields of Psychology which will widen their horizon for possible professional trajectories after studying.
My office hours for Winter 2022/2023 are by appointment in Psychology on level 5 (The attic) on Friday's 2-3pm and on Thursday's 4-5pm.
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).
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 findings on the effects of visual expertise on motor simulation when watching dance 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: