Our primary research interest is to investigate the functional relationship between rhythm and grammar in children. Headed by Dr. Reyna Gordon, we are focused on investigating the following:

  1. Associations between rhythm perception/production and grammar skills in children with typical and atypical development (rhythm and language traits)influence of rhythm on language task performance (states)

  2. Neural and behavioral mechanisms underlying these associations (i.e., speech rhythm/prosody sensitivity, auditory working memory), neural oscillatory approaches with EEG.

  3. Genetics of rhythm, language, and other related communication traits (see https://www.vumc.org/music-cognition-lab/new-genetics-projects )

  4. Integrating data from behavioral, neural, and genetic studies in an individual differences and personalized medicine/clinical-translational framework.


Our research studies the rhythm of social communication and investigates how musical engagement impacts social development from infancy to adulthood. Directed by Dr. Miriam Lense, our research areas include the following:

Music in Developmental Disabilities

  • SERENADE investigates the potential of musical experiences as a tool to improve social communication and engagement in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • In the past, we have also used time-frequency and ERP analyses of EEG data to examine the dynamics of auditory perception and social cognition in developmental disabilities (Williams Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and MECP2 duplication syndrome).
  • Our Questionnaire Study is a national survey assesses music engagement, social development, and emotional well-being in children and their families including those with developmental disabilities, medical, and mental health conditions. Access the survey at http://is.gd/MusicChildrenFamilies

Rhythm and Language in Infancy

  • Our Infant Study examines interpersonal synchrony and visual and vocal attention through acoustic analysis, movement analyses, and eye-tracking. 

Rhythm of Social Engagement in Toddlers with and without ASD

  • The Toddler study examines rhythm and timing of social engagement in toddlers with and without ASD using eye-tracking and behavioral methods.