Clinical and Music Neuroscience Laboratory

Research Overview

Our Laboratory investigates the brain mechanisms that underpin human hearing. We use a range of behavioural, cognitive, computational, and neurobiological techniques to explore the auditory system in healthy and clinical populations. In particular we use music to study how the brain learns complex auditory tasks and responds emotionally to information.

We apply this fundamental knowledge to develop new theories of music perception and cognition, and new approaches to music practice in education, communities, performance excellence and health. Some examples of research we are undertaking include:

  • Sound recognition mechanisms and their role in auditory perception
  • The perception of pitch and dissonance, including absolute pitch (AP)
  • Learning mechanisms and brain plasticity involved in music perception and performance associated with music training
  • The use of music to aid recovery after brain injury, and regulate mood and social behaviour
  • The development of new musical instruments and notational systems

We have also investigated auditory processing in a range of neurological conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), epilepsy, schizophrenia, and Williams Syndrome. Our computational models of the auditory system have formed the basis of new patented algorithms for de-noising speech signals and for speech and sound recognition.

photo of staff from Music and Auditory Neuroscience Lab


Associate Professor Neil M McLachlan
Dr Margaret Osborne, Honorary (Fellow)
Dr Genevieve Rayner, Research Fellow
Dr Cherie Green, Research Fellow
Dr Yi Ting Tan, Research Fellow
Dawn Merrett, MPsych/PhD Student
Laura J Bird, MPsych/PhD Student
Valerie Yap, MPsych/PhD Student
Annie Richard, MPsych/PhD Student
Jo Wigley, PhD Student
Sarah Hall, MPsych/PhD Student
James Richmond, MPsych/PhD Student
James Allebone, MPsych/PhD Student
Honor Coleman, MPsych/PhD Student
Kiralee Musgrove, MPsych/PhD Student
Tammy Dennis, PhD Student
Jennifer Kirsner, MPhil Student
Jane Bairnsfather, MPsych/PhD Student
Grace Broomfield, Honours Student
Taylor Rae Jenkin, Honours Student
Amanda Kuek, Honours Student
Solange Glasser-Sbieh, PhD Student and Honorary Member
Krysta Trevis, Honorary Member
Jessamae Pieters, Honorary Member and Lab Manager
Trisnasari Fraser, Honorary Member and Research Assistant


  • ARC Discovery Project Award, 2017-2019
    Wilson SJ, McPherson GE, Berkovic SF, Peretz I. The genetic basis of singing ability: A twin study.
  • Cross-disciplinary Research Fund, Melbourne Neuroscience Institute, 2013
    Wilson SJ, McPherson G, Berkovic SF, Peretz I. Investigating the genetic basis of singing ability: A twin study.
  • Interdisciplinary Seed Funding, The University of Melbourne, 2013
    McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ, Dowell R, Marozeau J. Enhanced neuroplastic adaptation to cochlea implants through music training.
  • ARC Discovery Project Award, 2012-2014
    McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ & Abbott DF. From sound to hearing: the integration of behavioural, neurophysiological, and neuroimaging research with computational models.
  • NHMRC Project Grant, 2012-2014
    Wilson SJ, McLachlan NM & Grayden D. Identifying sounds in noise in normal and damaged hearing.
  • Austin Hospital Medical Research Foundation (AHMRF) Grant, 2011 Wilson SJ. Using singing training for language rehabilitation after stroke.
  • ARC Discovery Project Award, 2006-2010
    Wilson SJ & Falk CA.  A study of acoustical, psycho-acoustical and musicological factors in tuned percussion ensemble design.

Research Publications

  • McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ. (2017).  The contribution of brainstem and cerebellar pathways to auditory recognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 265, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00265
  • Hall SE, Schubert E, Wilson SJ. (2016).  The role of trait and state absorption in the enjoyment of music. PLoS ONE, 11, e0164029
  • Trevis KJ, McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ. (2016).  Cognitive mechanisms in chronic tinnitus: Psychological markers of a failure to switch attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1262, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01262
  • Trevis KJ, McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ. (2016).  Psychological mediators of chronic tinnitus: The critical role of depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 204, 234-240.
  • Braden A, Osborne M, Wilson SJ. (2015).  Psychological intervention reduces performance anxiety in high school music students. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 195, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00195
  • Wilson SJ. (2014).  Comments on Hughes JR. The Mozart effect. Epilepsy & Behavior 2001;2:369-417. Epilepsy & Behavior, 40, 42-44
  • Tan YT, McPherson GE, Peretz I, Berkovic SF, Wilson SJ. (2014).  The genetic basis of music ability. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 658, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00658
  • Merrett DL, Peretz I, Wilson SJ. (2014).  Neurobiological, cognitive, and emotional mechanisms in Melodic Intonation Therapy. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 401, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00401
  • McLachlan NM, Marco DJT, Wilson SJ. (2013).  Pitch and plasticity: Insights from the pitch matching of chords by musicians with absolute and relative pitch. Brain Sciences, 3, 1615-1634
  • McLachlan NM, Marco DJT, Wilson SJ. (2013).  The musical environment and auditory plasticity: Hearing the pitch of percussion. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 768, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00768
  • Merrett DL, Peretz I, Wilson SJ. (2013).  Moderating variables of music training-induced neuroplasticity: A review and discussion. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 606,doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00606
  • McLachlan NM, Phillips DS, Rossell SL, Wilson SJ. (2013).  Auditory processing and hallucinations in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 150, 380-385.
  • Wilson SJ, Abbott DF, Tailby C, Gentle EC, Merrett DL, Jackson GD. (2013).  Changes in singing performance and fMRI activation following right temporal lobe surgery. Cortex, 49, 2512-2524.
  • McLachlan NM, Marco D, Light M, Wilson S. Consonance and pitch. J Exp Psych Gen 2013; doi: 10.1037/a0030830.
  • McLachlan NM, Marco DJT, Wilson SJ. (2012).  Pitch enumeration: Failure to subitize in audition. PLoS ONE, 7, e33661.
  • Wilson SJ, Lusher D, Martin CL, Rayner G,  McLachlan NM.  Intersecting factors lead to absolute pitch acquisition that is maintained in a "fixed do" environment. Music Perception 2012; 29: 285-296.
  • McLachlan NM, Adams R,  Burvill C. Tuning natural modes of vibration by prestress in the design of a harmonic gong. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2012; 131: 926-934.
  • McLachlan NM. A neurocognitive model of recognition and pitch segregation. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2011; 130: 2845-2854.
  • Wilson SJ, Abbott DF, Lusher D, Gentle EC, Jackson GD.  Finding your voice: A singing lesson from functional imaging. Human Brain Mapping 2011; 32: 2115-2130.
  • McLachlan NM, Greco LJ, Toner EC,  Wilson SJ.  Using spatial manipulation to examine interactions between visual and auditory encoding of pitch and time. Frontiers in Psychology 2010; 1: 233, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00233.
  • McLachlan NM, Wilson SJ.  The central role of recognition in auditory perception: A neurobiological model. Psychological Review 2010; 117: 175-196.
  • Martens M, Reutens DC, Wilson SJ. Auditory cortical volumes and musical ability in Williams syndrome. Neuropsychologia 2010; 48: 2602-2609.
  • Wilson SJ, Lusher D, Wan CY, Dudgeon P, Reutens DC. The neurocognitive components of pitch processing: Insights from absolute pitch. Cerebral Cortex 2009; 19: 724-732.
  • Wilson SJ, Parsons K, Reutens DC. Preserved singing in aphasia: A case study of the efficacy of Melodic Intonation Therapy. Music Perception 2006; 24: 23-36.

Research Projects

This Research Group doesn't currently have any projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cognitive Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Director Professor Sarah Wilson

Department / Centre

Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences

Unit / Centre

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