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PhD opening at ARC

IIT invites excellent candidates to apply to its PhD program organized in collaboration with the Open University; this international PhD program confers Doctorates in Health, Sustainable and Human Technologies.

In order to be admitted into the ARC program, the minimum requirements are

  1. a Masters-level degree, which broadly corresponds to a 4/5-year undergraduate MSc/MChem/Meng-style degree or to a postgraduate Masters in the British system, or to a second level University degree in Italy;
  2. a grade corresponding to an upper second class (2.1) or a merit in the UK system or 100/110 in the Italian system. Candidates with lower grades but redeeming features (publications, specific expertise) are requested to contact the potential supervisors before applying;
  3. where English is not the applicant’s first language, a valid IELTS (International English Language Testing System) certificate. The minimum acceptable score is an overall 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in any of the four categories

Neuroscience of Music

PhD in Neuroscience of Music
Project title: On the neurobiological origins of musicality and its socio-communicative functions

Background: music is a widespread human behavior, having deep social roots and powerful communicative functions. A compelling consensus among theories spanning from anthropology to developmental psychology suggests that the predisposition for producing and processing music – musicality – should be regarded as a human universal: a built-in predisposition, relatively independent of learning experiences. Two fundamental observations support this notion: (i) the ubiquity of music across virtually all cultures and (ii) the early emergence of musicality throughout development. To date, however, the biological origins of such predisposition are scarcely explored and poorly understood.

Description. The newly established Neuroscience of Perception and Action Laboratory (NPA Lab) led by Giacomo Novembre (in collaboration with Giandomenico Iannetti) is opening a PhD position examining the dynamic interplay between the sensory and motor systems that emerges in the context of music perception and production. The current position will investigate the neurobiological origins of musicality, that is, the mechanisms that make music a universally accessible channel of communication. The project will specifically focus on the intimate relationship between music and movement, including investigations of musical predispositions in young children (through a collaboration with Stefanie Hoehl from University of Vienna, Wien), or in adults who have never received musical training [see references i-iii below]. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to design and conduct neuroimaging (e.g. electroencephalography (EEG)) and behavioral (e.g. motion capture) experiments aimed at exploring how the human brain processes music, and what specific features of music can induce movement in a listener, including in the context of listener-directed music performance or joint music making (see references iv-vii below). The ideal candidate should be proactive, willing to learn, and suited for collaborative work within an international and inter-disciplinary team. The candidate will join a highly collaborative environment, with the opportunity to lead experimental design for the project(s), collect and analyze behavioral and neuroimaging data, disseminate scientific results, and possibly collaborate with other research groups (both nationally and internationally).

External references: i) Novembre, G., Varlet, M., Muawiyath, S., Stevens, C. J., & Keller, P. E. (2015). The E-music box: an empirical method for exploring the universal capacity for musical production and for social interaction through music. Royal Society open science, 2(11), 150286. (ii) Novembre, G., Mitsopoulos, Z., & Keller, P. E. (2019). Empathic perspective taking promotes interpersonal coordination through music. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-12. (iii) D’Ausilio, A., Novembre, G., Fadiga, L., & Keller, P. E. (2015). What can music tell us about social interaction?. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(3), 111-114. (iv) Stupacher, J., Hove, M. J., Novembre, G., Schütz-Bosbach, S., & Keller, P. E. (2013). Musical groove modulates motor cortex excitability: a TMS investigation. Brain and cognition, 82(2), 127-136. (v) Novembre, G., Sammler, D., & Keller, P. E. (2016). Neural alpha oscillations index the balance between self-other integration and segregation in real-time joint action. Neuropsychologia, 89, 414-425. (vi) Pan, Y., Novembre, G., Song, B., Li, X., & Hu, Y. (2018). Interpersonal synchronization of inferior frontal cortices tracks social interactive learning of a song. Neuroimage, 183, 280-290. (vii) Pan, Y., Novembre, G., Song, B., Zhu, Y., & Hu, Y. (2021). Dual brain stimulation enhances interpersonal learning through spontaneous movement synchrony. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 16(1-2), 210-221.

Main Supervisor: Giacomo Novembre (Neuroscience of Perception and Action Lab)

Essential expertise:

  1. A Master degree in neuroscience, psychology, computational sciences, music, or a cognate discipline. Alternatively, a Master degree in a hard science (e.g. mathematics, physics, as well as biology);
  2. demonstrable experience in coding;
  3. proof of strong interest in music-related research.;
  4. Demonstrable excellence in writing and communication using English as a primary language.

Desirable expertise:

  1. A Bachelor degree in neuroscience, psychology, computational sciences, music, or any related discipline. Alternatively, a BSc degree in e.g. mathematics, physics, as well as biology;
  2. demonstrable skills in physico-mathematical problem solving;
  3. experience with neuroimaging data collection or analysis;
  4. demonstrable experience of musical performance.

How to apply. Prospective students must submit using the online form the following documents 

  1. 2-page CV, which includes studies, expertise and achievements;
  2. 1-page research statement, which includes the choice of a project from the list above and a justification of the choice. Only if robustly justified, the student may signal their interest also for a second project, but there is no guarantee that this will be taken into account by the selection panel;
  3. a transcript of undergraduate and postgraduate studies;
  4. a valid IELTS certificate, obtained no more than two years before the proposed registration date.
  5. contact details of two referees.

For this position, ARC accepts candidatures on an ongoing basis (first-come, first-served).


Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, with its headquarters in Genoa, Italy, is a non-profit institution with the primary goal of creating and disseminating scientific knowledge and strengthening Italy's technological competitiveness. IIT's research endeavour focuses on high-tech and innovation, representing the forefront of technology with possible application from medicine to industry, computer science, robotics, life sciences and nanobiotechnologies.

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia is an Equal Opportunity Employer that actively seeks diversity in the workforce.
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