Caroline Palmer

Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Performance

Tier 1 - 2003-07-01
Renewed: 2017-07-01
McGill University
Natural Sciences and Engineering


Coming to Canada from

Ohio State University, USA

Research involves

Analyzing a variety of music and speech production tasks; developing quantitative models of memory and motor components; understanding the structure and neural bases of complex sequential tasks, such as playing a musical instrument or speaking.

Research relevance

Findings can be used to develop effective learning techniques targeted at people with different skill levels and to help rehabilitate patients suffering from brain injuries or neural diseases affecting memory and motor skills.

Learning and Remembering Complex Tasks

Music and language are the most advanced and complex of human abilities, a normal part of human development, cognition, social relationships, and culture. How do people understand, remember and produce long sequences of speech and music, such as sentences or melodies? Most current theories of memory retrieval for speech, music, motor skills and other human actions tend to focus only on uncovering the correct order and sequence of tasks that must occur. Little research addresses memory retrieval in terms of its development and retention, or decay, over time. This is the focus of Dr. Caroline Palmer's research as Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Performance. Dr. Palmer is an expert in human performance, music perception and quantitative/computational modelling with broad training in music, statistics, speech science, and in clinical and cognitive psychology. Her research is focused on two long-term objectives-identifying memory and motor processes that underlie accurate and fast performance in a variety of behaviours, and determining the cognitive changes that occur as people acquire skills. This program includes four main projects. First, Dr. Palmer is extending her earlier work on how the temporal properties of recalled events influence memory, such as which syllable in a word or which note in a melody lasts longer. The second focus is to further evaluate changes that occur in the brain as individuals acquire and develop musical skills. A third focus is on determining the relationship between memory retrieval and motor movements that occur as an individual performs complex tasks. Finally, Dr. Palmer is investigating how people with little or no musical training can predict upcoming events in temporally fluctuating music or speech. Increasing our understanding of the brain's role in shaping performance, memory and motor skills in the areas of speech and music provides valuable insight into the various learning techniques that work best for children and adults, as well as for novices and experts.