School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Is it an error or an innovation? Finding the boundaries between errors and innovations through an integrated neuroscientific and computational approach

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship in Psychology at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS) at Queen Mary, University of London. The PhD project falls within the field of Cognitive Neuroscience and involves the combination of advanced neuroimaging (EEG), brain stimulation, and computational modelling in order to understand cognitive processes related to the perception of innovation and creativity. The student will be supervised by Dr Caroline Di Bernardi Luft and co-supervised by Dr Marcus Pearce. 

Project description

There is a fine line between an error and an innovation. Both are novel and surprising, but errors are rejected and corrected, whereas innovations are reinforced and incorporated into future work. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between errors and innovation, and how they are perceived and transmitted by individuals. The aim of the project is to investigate the neural signatures of errors and innovations and their relation to the information properties (probabilities) of music. A series of EEG, brain stimulation, and computational modelling studies will be conducted in order to understand the differences in how the brain processes novelty associated with errors and innovations. The PhD project will apply advanced neuroimaging and transcranial brain stimulation methods, combined with computational models of music, to understand the neural mechanisms behind this process. 

The successful PhD candidate will be involved in planning/programming experiments, collecting and analysing data, and reporting the results for publication and writing a thesis.


The studentship will cover tuition fees and provide an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at the Research Council rate (£16,777 in 2018/19).

Eligibility and applying

Candidates must have a Master degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Biomedical Engineering or a closely related field. Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability (please see our entry requirements page for details). Matlab programming is a requirement and the candidate must have some experience of EEG/MEG data analysis. Brain stimulation and computational modelling experience would be an advantage. This project requires motivation and a broad interest to improve skills in various fields (e.g. computational modelling, signal processing, data analysis, programming, etc.). A basic knowledge of and interest in music is also desirable. 

For informal enquiries please email Dr Caroline Di B. Luft at  . To apply, please follow the online process at Queen Mary website. Applicants are required to provide their CV, transcripts, 2 references and a research statement which addresses the following questions: 1) Why do you want to research on this topic? 2) Why do you want to pursue a PhD? 3) What skills and experience do you have that would make you a successful candidate for this PhD position?

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