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Dr. Daniel Bowling

The biology of music: perceiving and participating in synchrony

e-mail: dan.bowling@univie.ac.at

Funder:  Austrian FWF (Lise Meitner Fellowship M1773-B24)


What makes us human? Who are we as a species? How did we get here? My ultimate goal is to contribute to answering these questions. I studied of psychology, cognitive science and philosophy at UCSD (BSc, BA; supervised by Pat Churchland) and neurobiology as a graduate student at Duke (PhD; supervised by Dale Purves). Since 2012, I’ve been a postdoc in the lab of Tecumseh Fitch at the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna.

My research is focused on the biology of human social communication: language, music and vocalization in particular. I’ve worked on auditory perception, vocal emotional expression, musical emotional expression, tonal beauty, speech timing, musical rhythm, interpersonal synchrony and prosocial behavior, non-human animal vocalization, comparative studies of vocalization (in primates and carnivores) and comparative laryngeal anatomy. I am currently funded by a Lisa Meitner fellowship from the Austrian FWF focused on the capacity of music to induce large-scale interpersonal temporal coordination and its consequences for social cohesion.

Current research projects include:
• Reviewing the role of premotor cortices in hierarchically structured complex temporal sequence production.
• Reviewing the evidence for social cohesion theories of music evolution
• Psychophysiological responses (ECG, respiration, EDA, pupil dilation) to interpersonal synchrony in point-light displays of biological motion: effects of social context.
• Cardiac and respiratory synchronization to musical rhythm: effects of bass and syncopation.
• A role of opioids in beat-driven musical pleasure: effects of musical groove on pain perception.
• Exercise driven music production (“jymmin”): interpersonal temporal coordination and social behavior
• Auditory pattern preferences in two vocal learners: humans and budgerigars.
• Comparative study of laryngeal anatomy in primates and carnivores


Hoeschele M, Bowling DL (2016). Sex differences in rhythmic preferences in the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus): a comparative study with humans. Temporal preferences in budgerigars and humans. Submitted to Frontiers in Psychology, 7:1543.

Bowling DL. The continuing legacy of nature vs. nurture in biolinguistics. Accepted at Psychnomic Bulletin & Review on 24.08.2016

Fillipi P, Ocklenburg S, Bowling DL, Heege L, … de Boar B. (2016). More than words (and faces): Evidence for a stroop effect of prosody in emotion word processing. Cognition and Emotion. Published online ahead of print.

Garcia M, Gingras B, Bowling DL, Herbst C, … Fitch WTF (2016). Structural classification of wild boar (Sus scrofa) vocalizations. Ethology, 122: 329-342.

Bowling DL & Fitch WTF (2015). Do animal communication systems have phonemes? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19: 555-57.

Bowling DL & Purves D (2015). A biological rationale for musical consonance. PNAS, 112: 11155-60.

Bowling DL (2015). The problem with emotion. Comment on “the quartet theory of human emotions: an integrative neurofunctional model” by S Koelsch et al. Physics of Life Reviews, 13:33-35.

Ravignani A, Bowling DL & Fitch (2014). Chorusing, synchrony, and the evolutionary functions of rhythm. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 1118.

Bowling DL (2014). Cognitive theory and brain fact: insights for the future of cognitive neuroscience. Comment on “toward a computational framework for cognitive biology” by WTF Fitch. Physics of Life Reviews, 11: 377-9.

Ravignani A, Bowling DL, Kirby S (2014). The psychology of biological clocks: a new framework for the evolution of rhythm. In E. Cartmill, S. Roberts, H. Lyn, & H. Cornish (Eds.), The evolution of language (pp. 262–269).

Bowling DL, Gingras B, Han S, Sundararajan J, Opitz ECL (2013). Tone of voice in emotional expression: relevance for the affective character of musical mode. Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies 7: 29-44.

Bowling DL, Herbst CT & Fitch WTF (2013). Social origins of rhythm? Synchrony and temporal regularity in the human vocalization. PLoS ONE, 8(11): e80402.

Bowling DL (2013). A vocal basis for the affective character of musical mode in melody. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 464.

Carter RM, Bowling DL, Reeck C & Huettel SA (2012). A distinct role of the temporal-parietal junction in predicting socially guided decisions. Science, 337: 109-111.

Bowling DL, Sundararajan J, Han S & Purves D (2012). Expression of emotion in eastern and western music mirrors vocalization. PLoS ONE, 7(3): e31942.

Bowling DL & Purves D (2012). A biological basis for musical tonality. In: B Barth, G Patrizia, H Klein (eds.) Sensory Perception: Mind and Matter. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg, DE.

Han S, Sundararajan J, Bowling DL, Lake J & Purves D (2011). Co-variation of tonality in the music and speech of difference cultures. PLoS ONE, 6(5): e20160.

Bowling DL, Gill K, Choi J, Prinz J & Purves D (2010). Major and minor music compared to excited and subdued speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127: 491-503.

Publications under review and in preparation:

Bowling DL, Hoeschele M, Gill K, & Fitch WT. The nature and nurture of musical consonance. Under review at Nature.

Bowling DL, Garcia M, Dunn J, Ruprecht A ... Fitch WTF. Body size and vocalization in primates and carnivores.  Under review at Scientific Reports on 23.09.2016.

Fritz TH, Bowling DL, Contier O, Grant J … Villringer A. Musical agency reduces pain during sports exercise. Under review at Scientific Reports on 09.05.2016.

Bowling DL, Garcia M, Dunn JC … Fitch WT. Comparative analysis of vocal anatomy in primates and carnivores. In preparation

Gill K, Bowling DL, Purves D. Consonance in musical chords. In preparation

Bowling DL & Fitch WTF. Keeping together in time: historical and experimental evidence on the social effects of interpersonal temporal coordination. In preparation.

Fillipi P, Congdon JV, Hoang J, Bowling DL … Güntürkün O. Humans recognize emotional arousal in animal vocalizations. In preparation.

More info here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Daniel_Bowling

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