Dr Niels Chr. Hansen

Research Program: Music Cognition and Action


Before joining MARCS, Dr Niels Chr. Hansen spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Music Cognition in Professor David Huron’s Cognitive and Systematic Musicology Laboratory at Ohio State University. Prior to that, he completed his PhD on the predictive coding of musical expertise at Center for Music in the Brain, Aarhus University.

He holds an MSc in Music, Mind, & Brain from Goldsmiths College, London, as well as an MMus in Music Theory and a Bachelor in Piano from The Royal Academy of Music Aarhus. In 2014, Dr
Hansen received a prestigious EliteForsk Travel Grant awarded to the 20 most talented, young
researchers in Denmark. This allowed him to visit MARCS to establish the groundwork for his current project investigating the evolutionary roots of human music making.

His numerous side-projects comprise behavioural, neurophysiological, and corpus-based studies on ecological acoustics, melodic phrase segmentation, jazz improvisation, instrument-specific absolute pitch, and the emotional underpinnings of Western orchestration practice. Dr Hansen has played concerts as a classical pianist in DK, SE, PL, NL, DE, UK, LV & IT and is also a dedicated performer of Central-Javanese gamelan. In a recent TEDx talk, he argued that “We are all musical beings”.(opens in a new window)

Purpose of Visit

Dr Niels Chr. Hansen will be conducting a postdoctoral research project on “The role of oxytocin in the evolutionary origins of joint music making” in close collaboration with Professor Peter Keller. This project is generously funded by Carlsberg Foundation and Lundbeck Foundation and aims to reveal the underlying neurobiological mechanisms by which the neurohormone oxytocin—involved in parenting, pair bonding, and social memory—facilitates synchrony and cohesion between individuals engaged in joint musical tasks.

The planned experiments could provide unifying answers to fundamental–yet unanswered–questions about why music exists and how oxytocin modulates human behaviour and interaction in general. This has unifying potential for evolutionary psychology, musicology, and neurobiology, in expanding the scientific understanding of music as a complex, socially embedded, and cross-culturally universal phenomenon, distinguishing us from many non-human species.

Appointment Dates

September 2018 - August 2020


For a full listing of my publications, please visit my Google Scholar page.(opens in a new window)