Stefan Koelsch (Kölsch)'s picture
Niels Westra

Stefan Koelsch (Kölsch)

  • E-mailStefan.Koelsch@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 62 31
  • Visitor Address
    Jonas Lies vei 91
    5009 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7807
    5020 Bergen

Stefan Koelsch (Kölsch) is a brain scientist and bestselling author recruited by UiB in 2015 as a Toppforsk (excellent research) Professor. His main research fields are neuroscience and experimental psychology. He is known for highly interdisciplinary work, co-authoring publications with neurologists, immunologists, psychiatrists, physicists, philosophers, musicologists, literary scholars, and psycholinguists. His ISI h-index is >60 (>80 in scholar.google), with an average of >80 citations per article.

If you are interested in doing a B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis in my group please click on the tab to the right. 

Prof. Koelsch describes his research interests as follows: “I am interested in which brain processes make us happy and healthy, and unhappy and sick. I have a powerful personal connection to music (being a former musician myself), and I am particularly interested in how music can support mood-regulation, social connection, and self-motivation. I am also interested in the therapeutic effects of music on disorders and diseases, especially neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders. My group is currently running a large study funded by the Norwegian Research Council (Forskningsradet) investigating the therapeutic effects of music therapy and physical exercise in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Subjective Cognitive Decline. Other neuroscience projects in my group investigate neural correlates of emotion, learning, and predictive processes.

Stefan Koelsch is also a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig (Germany), and at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

More on his research group

Research Interests

  • Emotions and the brain
    • Moodregulation with music
  • Clinical Interventions in Alzheimer's disease.
    • The therapeutic effects of music and physical activity in Alzheimer's disease
  • Neuroscientific methods
    • fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
    • MRS (Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy)
  • Predicitive processes in the brain
  • Music and the brain


"Gode Vibrasjoner" (Norsk oversettelse av min bok om musikk, emosjoner, hjernen, og terapeutiske virkninger av musikk)

Sammen med Sandvik: Leif Ove Andsnes og Stefan Kölsch (NRK radio) 

Inside a musician's brain (Bergen Philharmonic Video Presentation) 

På sangens lykkepille (News article in A-Magasinet about neuroscience and music)

Selected publications

Publication list in google.scholar

Academic article
  • Show author(s) (2024). Cognitive and sensory expectations independently shape musical expectancy and pleasure. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences.
  • Show author(s) (2023). Sensorimotor synchronization to music reduces pain. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2023). Neural correlates of statistical learning in developmental dyslexia: An electroencephalography study. Biological Psychology. 11 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2023). A 12-month randomised pilot trial of the Alzheimer’s and music therapy study: a feasibility assessment of music therapy and physical activity in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. BMC Pilot and Feasibility Studies. 15 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Unpredictability of the “when” influences prediction error processing of the “what” and “where”. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Tormenting thoughts: The posterior cingulate sulcus of the default mode network regulates valence of thoughts and activity in the brain's pain network during music listening. Human Brain Mapping. 773-786.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Study protocol for the Alzheimer and music therapy study: An RCT to compare the efficacy of music therapy and physical activity on brain plasticity, depressive symptoms, and cognitive decline, in a population with and at risk for Alzheimer's disease. PLOS ONE. 19 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Is musical engagement enough to keep the brain young? Brain Structure and Function.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Brain-correlates of processing local dependencies within a statistical learning paradigm. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Trait Empathy Shapes Neural Responses Toward Sad Music. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience. 231-241.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Neocortical substrates of feelings evoked with music in the ACC, insula, and somatosensory cortex. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2020). REPLY: Aesthetic Emotions Are a Key Factor in Aesthetic Evaluation: Reply to Skov and Nadal (2020). Psychological review. 650-654.
  • Show author(s) (2020). Cortical thickness and resting‐state cardiac function across the lifespan: A cross‐sectional pooled mega‐analysis. Psychophysiology. 16 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2020). A coordinate-based meta-analysis of music-evoked emotions. NeuroImage. 1-10.
  • Show author(s) (2019). When the statistical MMN meets the physical MMN. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Uncertainty and surprise jointly predict musical pleasure and amygdala, hippocampus, and auditory cortex activity. Current Biology. 4084-4092.e4.
  • Show author(s) (2019). The Effect of Emotional Valence on Ventricular Repolarization Dynamics Is Mediated by Heart Rate Variability: A Study of QT Variability and Music-Induced Emotions. Frontiers in Physiology.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Heroic music stimulates empowering thoughts during mind-wandering . Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2018). The right inferior frontal gyrus processes nested non-local dependencies in music. Scientific Reports. 1-12.
  • Show author(s) (2018). The auditory cortex hosts network nodes influential for emotion processing: An fMRI study on music-evoked fear and joy. PLOS ONE. 1-22.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Identifying Emotional Specificity in Complex Large-Scale Brain Networks. Emotion Review. 217-218.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Hippocampal-Temporopolar Connectivity Contributes to Episodic Simulation during Social Cognition. Scientific Reports. 1-13.
  • Show author(s) (2017). The periodic repolarization dynamics index identifies changes in ventricular repolarization oscillations associated with music-induced emotions. Computing in cardiology. 1-4.
  • Show author(s) (2017). The emotional power of poetry: Neural circuitry, psychophysiology and compositional principles. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience. 1229-1240.
  • Show author(s) (2017). The Temporal Pole Top-Down Modulates the Ventral Visual Stream during Social Cognition. Cerebral Cortex. 777-792.
  • Show author(s) (2017). The Distancing-Embracing model of the enjoyment of negative emotions in art reception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Language and music phrase boundary processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder: An ERP study. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Effects of Sad and Happy Music on Mind-Wandering and the Default Mode Network. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2016). Under the hood of statistical learning: A statistical MMN reflects the magnitude of transitional probabilities in auditory sequences. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2016). The impact of acute stress on hormones and cytokines, and how their recovery is affected by music-evoked positive mood. Scientific Reports.
  • Show author(s) (2016). Neurophysiological correlates of musical and prosodic phrasing: Shared processing mechanisms and effects of musical expertise. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Neural correlates of music-syntactic processing in two-year old children. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 200-208.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Differential effects of early life stress on hippocampus and amygdala volume as a function of emotional abilities. Hippocampus. 1094-1101.
  • Show author(s) (2013). Neural correlates of emotional personality: a structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging study. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2013). From Understanding to Appreciating Music Cross-Culturally. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2012). Cardiac signatures of personality. PLOS ONE.
  • Show author(s) (2011). Neurokognition von Musik und Sprache [Neurocognition of music and language]. Sprachheilarbeit. 178-185.
  • Show author(s) (2010). Differences in Electric Brain Responses to Melodies and Chords. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2251-2262.
  • Show author(s) (2009). Universal Recognition of Three Basic Emotions in Music. Current Biology. 573-576.
  • Show author(s) (2009). Musical training modulates the development of syntax processing in children. NeuroImage. 735-744.
  • Show author(s) (2008). Short-term effects of processing musical syntax: An ERP study. Brain Research. 55-62.
  • Show author(s) (2008). Processing of musical syntax in children with and without Specific Language Impairment. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 1940-1951.
  • Show author(s) (2008). EEG correlates of moderate intermittent explosive disorder. Clinical Neurophysiology. 151-162.
  • Show author(s) (2007). Untangling syntactic and sensory processing: An ERP study of music perception. Psychophysiology. 476-490.
  • Show author(s) (2007). A cardiac signature of emotionality. European Journal of Neuroscience. 3328-3338.
  • Show author(s) (2006). Brain, Music, Plasticity, and Development. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft. 51-70.
  • Show author(s) (2005). Neural Correlates of Processing Structure in Music and Language – Influences of Musical Training and Language Impairment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 231-242.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions and implications for therapy.
Academic lecture
  • Show author(s) (2019). Statistical learning in the developing brain: Towards early diagnosis of impaired language acquisition.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • Show author(s) (2007). Einflüsse von Entwicklungsveränderungen auf die Musikwahrnehmung und die Beziehung von Musik und Sprache [The relationship of music and language and developmental influences on music perception]. 24 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Statistical learning in the developing brain.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Author Correction: When the statistical MMN meets the physical MMN (Scientific Reports, (2019), 9, 1, (5563), 10.1038/s41598-019-42066-4). Scientific Reports.
Academic literature review
  • Show author(s) (2022). The promise of music therapy for Alzheimer's disease: A review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 11-17.
  • Show author(s) (2019). What are aesthetic emotions? Psychological review. 171-195.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Predictive processes and the peculiar case of music. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 63-77.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Negative emotions in art reception: Refining theoretical assumptions and adding variables to the distancing-embracing model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 44-63.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Effects of music therapy and music-based interventions in the treatment of substance use disorders: A systematic review. PLOS ONE. 1-36.
Article in business/trade/industry journal
  • Show author(s) (2019). Uncertainty and Surprise Jointly Predict Musical Pleasure and Amygdala, Hippocampus, and Auditory Cortex Activity. Current Biology.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)

Our current projects include: 

Therapeutic effects of music and physical activity on the brains of individuals with, or at risk for, Alzheimer's disease

We also carry out MRI-studies (e.g. on emotions, or on the effects of emotions on thoughts, often using music as experimental stimulus), and EEG studies (e.g. on predictive coding). 

We welcome students who are interested in doing a Bachelor- or Masters-thesis in my group! If you are interested please contact me about current projects and possibilities. If you are not a UiB-student, and are living abroad, you would typically need to join us within an academic exchange program, such as ERASMUS(+).

Vi ønsker studenter som er interessert i å gjennomføre sin bachelor- eller masteroppgave i min gruppe velkommen. Hvis du er interessert så kan du ta kontakt med meg om mine nåværende prosjekter og muligheter for deg. Hvis du ikke er en UiB Student og bor i utlandet vil du i utgangspunktet måtte bli med oss gjennom et akademisk utvekslingsprogram, som ERASMUS+.

2014 – 2015 Professor (Chair) of Psychology (Emotion Psychology and Biological Psychology), Faculty of Psychology at Lancaster University, UK.

2010 – 2014 Professor of Psychology (Biological Psychology and Music Psychology), Free University Berlin, Germany.

2006 – 2010 Senior Lecturer, University of Sussex, UK.

2003 – 2008 Assistant Professor / Leader of an Independent Max Planck Junior Research Group Max Planck Institute Cognitive Neuroscience, Leipzig, Germany.

2001 – 2002 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology/Neuroimaging (Group Professor Dr. G. Schlaug), Harvard University, USA.

2000 – 2001 Postdoctoral stipendiary of the Max Planck Institute of Cognitive NeuroScience (Department Professor Dr. A. D. Friederici), Leipzig, Germany.


2004 German Habilitation, 06.12.2004, Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience / University of Leipzig (Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy, and Psychology), Germany.

2000 Ph.D. in Psychology (Dr. rer. nat.), 08.05.2000, Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience / University of Leipzig, Germany (best mark / summa cum laude).