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research questions

I am fascinated by the interface between disciplines, bridging art and science, while being engaged in discourse that emphasizes cultural, socio-economic, and ethical factors. I would like to use principles developed in the performing arts to promote mental well-being, as well as using cognitive-behavioural therapy and other empirically-validated techniques to treat artists suffering from performance anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

What occurs at the cognitive and neural level when individuals engage in performance, either as a performer or an audience member?

How does our brain plasticity alter over time in response to music education, and playing a musical instrument or singing?

How can clinicians, educators, and even family members effectively support artists who struggle with performance anxiety?

How can role-play and other theatrical-based interventions be used to treat individuals with trauma, memory loss, or other mental illness, and provide coping strategies for daily stressors?

peer-reviewed publications


frontiers in psychology

Livingstone, Choi, & Russo (2014)

The influence of vocal training and acting experience on measures of voice quality and emotional genuineness.

Vocal training through singing and acting lessons is known to modify acoustic parameters of the voice. While the effects of singing training have been well documented, the role of acting experience on the singing voice remains unclear. In two experiments, we used linear mixed models to examine the relationships between the relative amounts of acting and singing experience on the acoustics and perception of the male singing voice. In Experiment 1, 12 male vocalists were recorded while singing with five different emotions, each with two intensities. Acoustic measures of pitch accuracy, jitter, and harmonics-to-noise ratio (HNR) were examined. Decreased pitch accuracy and increased jitter, indicative of a lower “voice quality,” were associated with more years of acting experience, while increased pitch accuracy was associated with more years of singing lessons. We hypothesized that the acoustic deviations exhibited by more experienced actors was an intentional technique to increase the genuineness or truthfulness of their emotional expressions. In Experiment 2, listeners rated vocalists’ emotional genuineness. Vocalists with more years of acting experience were rated as more genuine than vocalists with less acting experience. No relationship was reported for singing training. Increased genuineness was associated with decreased pitch accuracy, increased jitter, and a higher HNR. These effects may represent a shifting of priorities by male vocalists with acting experience to emphasize emotional genuineness over pitch accuracy or voice quality in their singing performances.


neural plasticity

Dringenberg, Branfield-Day, Choi (2014)

Chronic fluoxetine treatment suppresses plasticity (long-term potentiation) in the mature rodent primary auditory cortex in vivo.

Several recent studies have provided evidence that chronic treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine can facilitate synaptic plasticity (e.g., ocular dominance shifts) in the adult central nervous system. Here, we assessed whether fluoxetine enhances long-term potentiation (LTP) in the thalamocortical auditory system of mature rats, a developmentally regulated form of plasticity that shows a characteristic decline during postnatal life. Adult rats were chronically treated with fluoxetine (administered in the drinking water, 0.2 mg/mL, four weeks of treatment). Electrophysiological assessments were conducted using an anesthetized (urethane) in vivo preparation, with LTP of field potentials in the primary auditory cortex (A1) induced by theta-burst stimulation of the medial geniculate nucleus. We find that, compared to water-treated control animals, fluoxetine-treated rats did not express higher levels of LTP and, in fact, exhibited reduced levels of potentiation at presumed intracortical A1 synapses. Bioactivity of fluoxetine was confirmed by a reduction of weight gain and fluid intake during the four-week treatment period.We conclude that chronic fluoxetine treatment fails to enhance LTP in the mature rodent thalamocortical auditory system, results that bring into question the notion that SSRIs act as general facilitators of synaptic plasticity in the mammalian forebrain.

past affiliations

  • Music Cognition Lab - L. Cuddy, Queen's University

  • Neuroplasticity Lab - H. Dringenberg, Queen's University

  • Biomotion Lab - N. Troje, Queen's University

  • Cognitive & Psychotic Disorders Lab - C. Bowie, Queen's University

  • SMART Lab - F. Russo, Ryerson University

past Projects

Perception of motion capture and multimodal recording of performing violinists.  

Dr. Lola Cuddy (Queen's University), Dr. Niko Troje (Queen's University); NSERC. 

We recruited musicians and non-musicians to view full-light and point-light videos of violinists who were recorded in the lab wearing motion capture suits. We are investigating the extent to which visual information and performers' movements influence individuals' judgements and perceptions of musical performance and musicians' expertise.

Jump, jive, or wail: The effect of sensory mode on music-induced movement in response to jazz music

Dr. Lola Cuddy (Queen's University), Dr. Niko Troje (Queen's University). 

Music-Evoked Autobiographical Memories (MEAMs) in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Dr. Lola Cuddy (Queen's University)

Assessing threat responses towards the symptoms and diagnosis of schizophrenia using visual perceptual biases

Dr. Christopher Bowie (Queen's University). see Heenan, A., et al. (2014) in Schizophrenia Research.