Jeroen van der Aa

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna

■  Nationality: the Netherlands

■  Supervisor: Prof. Tecumseh Fitch

■  Key topics: Musicality; rhythm perception, production and entrainment in non-human animals.


PhD project:

Despite how ingrained music is in most human cultures, its' evolutionary role and history remains unclear. While humans have long been considered to be unique with regards to musicality, recent examples have proven the opposite. Examples of many Parrots species and a Sea Lion capable of entraining to human music, effectively dancing, immediately raises the question of where this capability comes from in these animals. Next to this, they also allow for potential new insights into the evolution of musicality, both for human and non-human animals. 

Using different animal models, my PhD aims at understanding the mechanisms underlying rhythmic musicality. By studying different species in a laboratory-, free behaving- and their natural environment the goal is to gain biologically wholistic insights in to the perception and production of, and entrainment to rhythms. 

Past experiences:

I did both my Bachelor's, Life Science and Technology (major: Behavioural and Neurosciences), and Master's, Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences (Cognition-track), at the University of Groningen. My master’s thesis was on the perception of regularity in isochronous rhythms in the Zebra finch at Leiden University. After graduating my master's, I have had several other jobs, including but not limited to: fieldwork for ecological consulting agencies and as developer (IT).

Outside the lab:

A lot of my free time is filled with music, either listening at home or concerts, or playing (guitar and drums). Next to that I enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction, a good (or bad) movie, and both digital and board games. Finally I savour sampling and exploring beer, wine and whisky.