The influence of individual differences in brain rhythms on language and music competency

   School of Social Sciences

  Dr Anne Keitel  Tuesday, October 31, 2023  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The PhD project will aim to answer the question why some individuals have better speech comprehension skills or are more musical than others. The methodological focus will be on using EEG (electroencephalography) and behavioural experiments, and the associated research fields are Cognitive Neuroscience, Auditory Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, and Psychology.

Previous research has overwhelmingly focussed on generic neural mechanisms and has shown that brain rhythms play a crucial role in speech and music perception. “Brain rhythms” (or "neural oscillations") refer to regular neural activity, which is ubiquitous in the brain and involved in many perceptual, cognitive and behavioural processes. I have previously shown that each brain area has its own unique mix of rhythms (Keitel & Gross, 2016). But although every individual is slightly different, individual differences in these brain rhythms and perception processes have been largely neglected. In this project, we will study the role of brain rhythms at the individual level, by comprehensively modelling brain rhythm profiles for each individual. These brain rhythm profiles can then be used to predict speech and music perception and skills, and explain why some people perform better in these areas. The project will adopt such an overarching approach because music and speech perception rely on many of the same basic auditory processes, and these predict literacy and academic success.

Apart from the core research question and the basic methodology, the project is very much open to the interests and skills of the PhD candidate. Depending on the candidate's background, the project can focus more on either technical, social, biological or musical sciences, or a combination. Specific experiments will be planned together with the candidate, and they will be part of a very friendly and supportive team.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Anne Keitel ()

For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Our research community thrives on the diversity of students and staff which helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for postgraduate research. We welcome applications from all talented individuals and are committed to widening access to those who have the ability and potential to benefit from higher education.


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent for non-UK qualifications). For international qualifications, please see equivalent entry requirements here:

In certain circumstances candidates may be asked to spend a year completing our Master's degree in Psychological Research Methods before commencing their doctoral research. The decision about the suitability of their qualifications is made by the supervisor and the School’s postgraduate advisor.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in writing and not less than 5.5 in reading, listening and speaking). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here:


Step 1: Email Dr Anne Keitel () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Keitel, formal applications can be made via our direct application system. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates must apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Psychology using our direct application system: Psychology.

Please select the degree length (three year or four year), study mode (full-time/part-time) and start date agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the Research Proposal section, please:

-       Enter the lead supervisor’s name in the ‘proposed supervisor’ box

-       Enter the project title listed at the top of this page in the ‘proposed project title’ box

In the ‘personal statement’ section, please outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.


Scientific publication:
Keitel, A., & Gross, J. (2016). Individual human brain areas can be identified from their characteristic spectral activation fingerprints. PLoS biology, 14(6), e1002498.
Associated lay article:

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