Dr. Levitin runs McGill University’s Laboratory for Music Perception and Expertise, a dynamic and active research environment for studying the science of musical sound, with over 30 different studies running concurrently. The laboratory is staffed by professional technicians, post-doctoral research fellows, and graduate students in psychology, computer science, medicine, music, and education. A select number of undergraduates receive training each year and conduct supervised projects, many of which lead to publications. The lab has also hosted many leading scholars in the psychology of music from around the world.
The laboratory is primarily interested in the cognitive neuroscience of music perception (how we listen to music), cognition (how we organize music in memory), and expertise (how people become expert performers, composers, and listeners). More recently we have begun to study the neural correlates of musical emotion, and the structure of musical preferences—topics that tie together these other three. Our methods span all the tools of modern experimental psychology, including functional neuroimaging (fMRI), psychophysics, psychophysiology, neurochemstry, and studies of specific populations with neurogenetic impairments (e.g. Williams Syndrome, Autism, Down Syndrome). We are also engaged in the development of new quantitative methods for studying these phenomena.
Three of our newest research projects are (a) examining the effects of music on health outcomes and pain management (funded by SSHRC); (b) investigating the difference in perception of audio quality formats, specifically, whether listeners can hear the difference between mp3, wav, and super-audio high resolution digital formats (funded by the Grammy Foundation); (c) studying the qualities that make some melodies identifiable, and the transformations/variations under which they can be subjected while remaining recognizable (funded by Google).