Department of Psychology

Professor Lauren Stewart

Position held:
Professor and co-director of the MSc in Music, Mind and Brain

+44 (0)20 7919 7195

+44 (0)20 7919 7873

l.stewart (

Room 202/3 Whitehead Building
Department of Psychology
Goldsmiths, University of London
New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

Office hours:
By appointment

Summary of research

  • Cognitive neuroscience of music;
  • therapeutic uses of music;
  • synaesthesia;
  • musical imagery.

Academic qualifications



MSc in Music Mind and Brain

Areas of supervision

Available to supervise undergraduate, MSc and PhD students in any of the areas listed on my 'research' tab, or in closely-related areas. Please contact me to discuss project opportunities.

Grants & awards

Stewart, L. Investigating Involuntary Cognition via Spontaneous Musical Imagery. Leverhulme Trust (2012 - 2015). £250K

Stewart, L. Fractionating the Musical Mind: Insights from Congenital Amusia. Economic and Social Research Council (2008-2011). £400K


Research interests

My current research falls broadly within the three following areas:

Using Tunes in the Head to understand Spontaneous Cognition

The idea that we have full control over our thought processes is an illusion.  Proust, for instance, discusses a childhood memory, triggered by the taste of a madeleine cookie and numerous examples of spontaneous involuntary cognitions abound.  Although such experiences are valuable hallmarks of our inner mental life, these phenomena do not easily lend themselves to scientific study. However, based on our recent pilot work, it is clear that one type of spontaneous, involuntary cognition – namely, the ‘tune in the head phenomenon’ - holds particular promise for empirical study.  Such episodes of spontaneous musical imagery (SMI) are vivid, can be described in detail and affect 90% of the population at least once a week. As part of a collaboration with the BBC, my research team has developed an online survey instrument ( and collected several thousand reports of SMI episodes. The project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, will apply a combination of experimental psychology, computational and cognitive neuroscience approaches to address fundamental questions concerning the content, function and neurobiological origins of SMI experiences.

Fractionating the Musical Mind: Insights from Congenital Amusia

A small percentage of the population report a lifelong failure to recognize familiar tunes or tell one tune from another, frequently complain that music sounds like a “din” and often avoid the many social situations in which music plays a crucial role. Such individuals, termed ‘congenitally amusic’, have lifelong difficulties with music and perform poorly on a standardized battery of musical listening tasks (Peretz, 2003). This disorder provides us with the opportunity to investigate the cognitive architecture of music, and its relation to other domains, such as language and spatial cognition. Using a large group of congenitally amusic individuals, recruited via an online musical listening test (, my present research aims to elucidate precisely which perceptual and cognitive mechanisms are at fault in amusia, whether disordered musical processing has implications for language and the extent to which such difficulties can impact upon sociocultural and affective functioning.  This work is carried out in collaboration with Professor Tim Griffiths at Newcastle University and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Musicians as a Model of Neuroplasticity

Professional pianists must bimanually co-ordinate the production of up to 1800 notes per minute, integrate auditory and sensori-motor information and constantly monitor for errors in performance. The development of these cognitive abilities is the result of intense practise from an early age and provides an ideal model for investigating learning-induced plasticity.  My work has focused specifically on the acquisition of musical literacy, asking questions about the cognitive representation of musical notation and the changes that occur in the brain as musical notation goes from being an impenetrable jumble of dots and lines, into a meaningful code for performance. I am currently interested in examining auditory-motor interactions in trained musicians.



Selected publications

Number of items: 63.


Jakubowski, Kelly, Halpern, Andrea, Grierson, Mick and Stewart, Lauren. 2014. The effect of exercise-induced arousal on chosen tempi for familiar melodies. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, ISSN 1069-9384 [Article]

Bodak, R, Malhotra, P, Bernardi, N.F., Cocchini, Gianna and Stewart, Lauren. 2014. Reducing chronic visuo-spatial neglect following right hemisphere stroke through instrument playing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8(413), ISSN 1662-5161 [Article]

Müllensiefen, Daniel, Fry, J., Jones, Rhiannon, Jilka, S., Stewart, Lauren and Williamson, Victoria J.. 2014. Individual Differences Predict Patterns in Spontaneous Involuntary Musical Imagery. Music Perception, 31(4), pp. 323-338. ISSN 0730-7829 [Article]

Williamson, Victoria J., Liikkanen, Lassi A., Jakubowski, Kelly and Stewart, Lauren. 2014. Sticky Tunes: How Do People React to Involuntary Musical Imagery? PLOS ONE, 9(1), e86170. ISSN 1932-6203 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Verdonschot, Rinus G., Nasralla, Patrick and Lanipekun, Jennifer. 2013. Action–perception coupling in pianists: Learned mappings or spatial musical association of response codes (SMARC) effect? The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 66(1), pp. 37-50. ISSN 1747-0218 [Article]

Fancourt, Amy, Dick, Frederic and Stewart, Lauren. 2013. Pitch-change detection and pitch-direction discrimination in children. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(2), pp. 73-81. ISSN 0275-3987 [Article]

Cameron, David, Stewart, Lauren, Pearce, Marcus T. and Grube, Manon. 2012. Modulation of motor excitability by metricality of tone sequences. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 22(2), pp. 122-128. ISSN 0275-3987 [Article]

Omigie, Diana, Müllensiefen, Daniel and Stewart, Lauren. 2012. The Experience of Music in Congenital Amusia. Music Perception, 30(1), pp. 1-18. ISSN 0730-7829 [Article]

Banissy, Michael J., Stewart, Lauren, Muggleton, N. G., Griffiths, T. D., Walsh, V., Ward, J. and Kanai, R.. 2012. Grapheme-color and tone-color synesthesia is associated with structural brain changes in visual regions implicated in color, form, and motion. Cognitive Neuroscience, 3(1), pp. 29-35. [Article]

Williamson, Victoria J., Liu, Fang, Peryer, Guy, Grierson, Mick and Stewart, Lauren. 2012. Perception and action de-coupling in congenital amusia: sensitivity to task demands. Neuropsychologia, 50(1), pp. 172-180. ISSN 1873-3514 [Article]

Marin, M., Gingras, B. and Stewart, Lauren. 2012. Perception of musical timbre in congenital amusia: categorization, discrimination and short-term memory. Neuropsychologia, 50(3), pp. 367-378. ISSN 0028-3932 [Article]

Omigie, D., Pearce, M. T. and Stewart, Lauren. 2012. Tracking of pitch probabilities in congenital amusia. Neuropsychologia, 50(7), pp. 1483-1493. [Article]

Liu, F., Jiang, C., Thompson, W. F., Xu, Y., Yang, Y. and Stewart, Lauren. 2012. The mechanism of speech processing in congenital amusia: evidence from Mandarin speakers. PLoS One, 7(2), 0-0. [Article]

Omigie, D. and Stewart, Lauren. 2011. Preserved Statistical Learning of Tonal and Linguistic Material in Congenital Amusia. Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, 2(109), pp. 1-11. [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2011. Characterizing Congenital Amusia. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64(4), pp. 625-638. ISSN 1747-0218 [Article]

Overath, Tobias, Kumar, Sukhbinder, Stewart, Lauren, von Kriegstein, Katharina, Cusack, Rhodri, Rees, Adrian and Griffiths, Timothy D.. 2010. Cortical Mechanisms for the Segregation and Representation of Acoustic Textures. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(6), pp. 2070-2076. ISSN 0270-6474 [Article]

Olakunbi, Deborah, Bamiou, Doris-Eva, Stewart, Lauren and Luxon, Linda M.. 2010. Evaluation of musical skills in children with a diagnosis of an auditory processing disorder. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 74(6), pp. 633-636. ISSN 0165-5876 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Griffiths, Timothy D., Deutsch, Diana, McDonald, Claire and Williamson, V. J.. 2010. Faster decline of pitch memory over time in congenital amusia. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 6(1), pp. 15-22. ISSN 1895-1171 [Article]

Liu, Fang, Patel, Aniruddh, Fourcin, Adrian and Stewart, Lauren. 2010. Intonation processing in congenital amusia: discrimination, identification and imitation. Brain, 133(6), pp. 1682-1693. ISSN 0006-8950 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2009. Lost in music. The Psychologist, 22(12), pp. 1030-1033. ISSN 0952-8229 [Article]

Garrido, Lucia, Eisner, Frank, McGettigan, Carolyn, Stewart, Lauren, Sauter, Disa, Hanley, J. Richard, Schweinberger, Stefan, Warren, Jason D. and Duchaine, Brad. 2009. Developmental phonagnosia: A selective deficit of vocal identity recognition. Neuropsychologia, 47(1), pp. 123-131. ISSN 00283932 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2008. Do musicians have different brains? Clinical medicine, 8(3), pp. 304-308. ISSN 1470-2118 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2008. Fractionating the musical mind: insights from congenital amusia. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 18(2), pp. 127-130. ISSN 09594388 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Overath, Tobias, Warren, Jason D., Foxton, Jessica M. and Griffiths, Timothy D.. 2008. fMRI Evidence for a Cortical Hierarchy of Pitch Pattern Processing. PLoS ONE, 3(1), e1470. [Article]

McDonald, Claire and Stewart, Lauren. 2008. Uses and functions of music in congential amusia. Music Perception, 25(4), pp. 345-355. ISSN 0730-7829 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Williamon, Aaron. 2008. What are the implications of neuroscience for musical education? Educational Research, 50(2), pp. 177-186. ISSN 0013-1881 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2007. Music perception: sounds lost in space. Current Biology, 17(20), R892-R893. ISSN 09609822 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2007. Musical thrills and chills. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 11(1), pp. 5-6. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Griffiths, Timothy D., Kumar, Sukhbinder, Warren, Jason D., Stewart, Lauren, Stephan, Klaas Enno and Friston, Karl J.. 2007. Approaches to the cortical analysis of auditory objects. Hearing research, 229, pp. 46-53. ISSN 0378-5955 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Von Kriegstein, K., Warren, Jason D. and Griffiths, Timothy D.. 2006. Music and the brain: disorders of musical listening. Brain, 129(7), pp. 1-21. ISSN 0006-8950 (print) 1460-2156 (online) [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2006. Congenital amusia. Current Biology, 16(21), pp. 904-906. ISSN 0960-9822 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2005. A neurocognitive approach to music reading. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1060(1), pp. 377-386. ISSN 0077-8923 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2005. Infant learning: music and the baby brain. Current Biology, 15(21), R882-R884. ISSN 09609822 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2005. Neurocognitive studies of musical literacy acquisition. Musicae Scientae, 9(2), pp. 223-237. [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2004. Through the eyes of a child. New Scientist(2449), pp. 52-53. ISSN 0262-4079 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2004. Tuning the musical brain. Piano professional, pp. 9-13. [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Walsh, Vincent and Frith, Uta. 2004. Reading music modifies spatial mapping in pianists. Perception and psychophysics, 66(2), pp. 183-195. ISSN 0031-5117 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Henson, Rik, Kampe, Knut, Walsh, Vincent, Turner, Robert and Frith, Uta. 2003. Becoming a pianist: an fMRI study of musical literacy acquisition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999, pp. 204-208. ISSN 0077-8923 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Frith, Uta, Henson, Rik and Walsh, Vincent. 2003. Brain changes after learning to read and play music. NeuroImage, 20(1), pp. 71-83. ISSN 10538119 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Henson, Rik, Kampe, Knut, Walsh, Vincent, Turner, Robert and Frith, Uta. 2003. Brain changes after learning to read and play music. NeuroImage, 20, pp. 71-83. ISSN 1053-8119 [Article]

Backhouse , G., Bishop- Liebler, P., Frith, U. and Stewart, Lauren. 2003. Music, dyslexia and the brain. PATOSS, 162, pp. 9-14. [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2002. Zoning in on music and the brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6(11), p. 451. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2002. Congenital amusia: all the songs sound the same. Current Biology, 12, pp. 420-421. ISSN 0960-9822 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2002. Probing perceptual asynchrony. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6(4), p. 153. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2001. Priming: a tool for imaging. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(12), p. 511. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Senior, Carl. 2001. Experiences from 'Brain Camp'. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(11), p. 465. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2001. Attending and intending. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(7), p. 284. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Walsh, Vincent, Frith, Uta and Rothwell, John. 2001. TMS produces two dissociable types of speech disruption. NeuroImage, 13(3), pp. 472-478. ISSN 1053-8119 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Meyer, Bernd-Ulrich, Frith, Uta and Rothwell, John. 2001. Left posterior BA37 is involved in object recognition: a TMS study. Neuropsychologia, 39, pp. 1-6. ISSN 0028-3932 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Rothwell, John and Walsh, Vincent. 2001. Motor and phosphene thresholds: a TMS correlation study. Neuropsychologia, 39(4), pp. 114-119. ISSN 00283932 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2001. Neuropsychology: music of the hemispheres. Current Biology, 11(4), pp. 125-127. ISSN 0960-9822 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Walsh, Vincent, Frith, Uta and Rothwell, John. 2001. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Produces Speech Arrest but Not Song Arrest. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, pp. 433-435. ISSN 0077-8923 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren. 2001. Universal dyslexia? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(5), p. 188. ISSN 1364-6613 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren, Ellison, Amanda, Walsh, Vincent and Cowey, Alan. 2001. The role of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in studies of vision, attention and cognition. Acta Psychologia(107), pp. 275-291. ISSN 0001-6918 [Article]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2000. Probing the mind with magnetism. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, pp. 84-86. ISSN 1471-1931 [Article]

Book Section

Stewart, Lauren, Kriegstein von, Katharina, Dalla Bella , Simone, Warren, Jason D. and Griffiths, Timothy D.. 2008. Disorders of musical cognition. In: Susan Hallam, Ian Cross and Michael Thaut, eds. Oxford handbook of music psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 184-196. ISBN 978-0-19-929845-7 [Book Section]

Stewart, Lauren. 2008. Music reading: a cognitive neuroscience approach. In: Tim Miles, John Westcombe and Diana Ditchfield, eds. Music and dyslexia: a positive approach. Chichester: Wiley, pp. 162-170. ISBN 978-0-470-06557-0 [Book Section]

Stewart, Lauren and Walsh, Vincent. 2006. Transcranial magnetic stimulation in human cognition. In: Carl Senior, Tamara Russell and Michael S. Gazzaniga, eds. Methods in mind. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, pp. 1-26. ISBN 0-262-19541-0 [Book Section]

Ellison, Amanda, Stewart, Lauren, Cowey, Alan and Walsh, Vincent. 2003. Magnetic stimulation in studies of vision and attention. In: Manfred Fahle and Mark Greenlee, eds. The neuropsychology of vision. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 163-176. ISBN 9780198505822 [Book Section]

This list was generated on Sat Mar 28 03:47:27 2015 GMT.

Content last modified: 09 Oct 2014

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