Rachel Brown

About meRBC1

I am fascinated by how we adapt our behaviors to a dynamic environment, and whether the ways in which we move our bodies influences our ability to adapt and learn. My research at Maastricht University focuses on understanding how we learn complex auditory stimuli such as music or speech and how movement contributes to learning using behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging techniques. My previous work examined sensorimotor learning for skilled individuals (musicians) and non-skilled individuals, to try to understand how acquired sensorimotor associations impact learning. In this work I saw transfer between auditory and motor learning for both skilled and non-skilled learners: listening to sounds facilitates motor learning, and for skilled individuals performing movements facilitates auditory recognition. I now try to more fully understand whether and under what constraints performing movements can aid learning. What I find has strong implications for how learning can be enhanced over the lifespan.


Learning and Re-learning

I aim to understand how humans learn complex sound patterns, such as speech or music, and how the ability to learn changes over the lifespan. I use behavioral, electrophysiological, and neuroimaging methods to examine 1) how associating patterns of sound with patterns of body movement can enhance auditory learning, 2) how grouping sounds together within a sequence can aid learning, 3) how learning changes over the course of normal aging, and 4) how individual abilities influence learning. The goal of this work is to understand not just what kinds of learning lead to better memory, but the dynamic processes underlying learning itself, particularly how and why people get better at anticipating what sounds will come next while they learn a novel pattern of sounds.

  • Sequence learning and memory
  • Auditory-motor integration
  • Learning in healthy aging
  • Expertise
  • Mental imagery


  • Structural and functional MRI
  • Behavior
  • EEG

Qualifications and Professional Experience

  • 2013 – McGill University, Canada: Ph.D. (Experimental Psychology)
  • 2004 – Mount Holyoke College, USA: B.A. (Psychology, High Honors)

Selected Publications

  • Kotz, S. A., Brown, R. M., & Schwartze, M. (2016). Cortico-striatal circuits and the timing of action and perception. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 8, 42-45.
  • Brown, R. M., Chen, J. L., Hollinger, A., Penhune, V. B., Palmer, C., & Zatorre, R. J. (2013). Repetition suppression in auditory-motor regions to pitch and temporal structure in music. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(2), 313–328.
  • Brown, R. M., & Palmer, C. (2012). Auditory-motor learning influences auditory memory for music. Memory and Cognition, 40(4), 567–578.
  • Brown, R. M., Robertson, E. M., & Press, D.Z. (2009). Sequence skill acquisition and off-line learning in normal aging. PLoS ONE 4(8):e6683.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006683.
  • Brown, R. M. & Robertson, E. M. (2007). Inducing motor skill improvements with a declarative task. Nature Neuroscience, 10(2), 148–149.


  • 2016 – 2018 – Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant, Maastricht University, Netherlands
  • 2013 – 2015 – NSERC-Create Post-doctoral Fellowship, Concordia University, Canada
  • 2013 – 2014 – Quebec Bioimaging Network Scholarship, Concordia University, Canada
  • 2009 – 2013 – FQRNT Doctoral Research Merit Scholarship, McGill University, Canada
  • 2007 – 2009 – Richard H. Tomlinson Master’s Fellowship, McGill University, Canada

For more details please send an email to rachel.brown@maastrichtuniversity.nl

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