Machine learning for affective manipulation in music brain computer interfaces

   Department of Biomedical Engineering

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

At the University of Reading, we have created one of the first music brain computer interfaces (BCI). This music-BCI is a system that monitors the emotional states of the subject and, as a result, generates commands that change the nature of synthetically- generated live music in order to drive the emotional state of the subject in the desired direction. Such a system holds promise as a potential therapeutic tool for affective disorders, anxiety or stress reduction, or as an adjunct to cognitive therapies in conditions where emotional context plays an important role.  

Music is a very rich and complex stimulus and there are many of its characteristics that can have emotional consequences. Moreover, their effects need not be decoupled, and some co-modulation could have amplifying emotional effects, whereas others could counteract each other’s consequences. Moreover, any modification of a music stream must respect its overall ‘musicality’ as otherwise the effect might be quite dissonant.  

There is a need to investigate effective ways of modulating music, and this project will investigate music as a multivariate stimulus with rich and varying temporal dependencies. Using machine learning tools, such as deep learning and models of complex temporal dependencies in multivariate data, the project will investigate what are the most effective means of manipulating music for optimal emotional effect. The starting point will be real music with known emotional content, but the machine learning tools may ultimately be used generatively, thus producing new synthetic music. The results will be evaluated in experiments with the music BCI thus leading to advancement of such technology.  

 This project will take place in the Brain Embodiment Lab within Biomedical Engineering Section of the School of Biological Sciences (SBS), which has a strong reputation for its innovative research in cybernetics, and biomedical engineering, including Brain Computer Interfaces, animats - (robots controlled by cultures of living neuronal cells), and cognitive robotics systems.  


School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading: 

The University of Reading, located west of London, England, provides world-class research education programs. The University’s main Whiteknights Campus is set in 130 hectares of beautiful parkland, a 30-minute train ride to central London and 40 minutes from London Heathrow airport.   

Our School of Biological Sciences conducts high-impact research, tackling current global challenges faced by society and the planet. Our research ranges from understanding and improving human health and combating disease, through to understanding evolutionary processes and uncovering new ways to protect the natural world. In 2020, we moved into a stunning new ~£60 million Health & Life Sciences building. This state-of-the-art facility is purpose-built for science research and teaching. It houses the Cole Museum of Zoology, a café and social spaces. 

In the School of Biological Sciences, you will be joining a vibrant community of ~180 PhD students representing ~40 nationalities. Our students publish in high-impact journals, present at international conferences, and organise a range of exciting outreach and public engagement activities. 

During your PhD at the University of Reading, you will expand your research knowledge and skills, receiving supervision in one-to-one and small group sessions. You will have access to cutting-edge technology and learn the latest research techniques. We also provide dedicated training in important transferable skills that will support your career aspirations. If English is not your first language, the University's excellent International Study and Language Institute will help you develop your academic English skills. 

The University of Reading is a welcoming community for people of all faiths and cultures. We are committed to a healthy work-life balance and will work to ensure that you are supported personally and academically. 


Applicants should have a bachelors (at least 2.1 or equivalent) or master’s degree in physics, applied mathematics, engineering, computing or a strongly related discipline.  

 Strong analytic and programming skills are preferable.  

 Experience in image processing and experimental data analysis are desirable. 

Applicants will also need to meet the University’s English Language requirements. We offer pre-sessional courses that can help with meeting these requirements. 

How to apply: 

Submit an application for a PhD in Cybernetics at 

Further information: 


Prof S J Nasuto. email:   

Computer Science (8) Engineering (12) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

We welcome applications from self-funded students worldwide for this project.
If you are applying to an international funding scheme, we encourage you to get in contact as we may be able to support you in your application.


Please see Prof Nasuto's profile:

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