Dr Maria Witek

Dr Maria Witek

Department of Music
Senior Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

Room 106, Ashley Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I’m a research fellow investigating music cognition, psychology and neuroscience, with a special focus on rhythm, body-movement, affect and musical groove.

Feedback and office hours

Office hours


  • BA Musicology, University of Oslo (2006)
  • MA Music Psychology, University of Sheffield (2008)
  • DPhil Music, University of Oxford (2013)


I have worked and studied across music and cognitive science since finishing my undergraduate degree in musicology in Oslo. I completed an MA in Music Psychology at Sheffield University, and a doctorate in Music at the University of Oxford. Before coming to Birmingham, I was Assistant Professor at the Center for Music in the Brain, Aarhus University, Denmark.


  • Introduction to Music Cognition
  • Music and Emotion

Postgraduate supervision

I am interested in hearing from potential doctoral students wishing to study music cognition, psychology and philosophy of mind, especially (but not limited to) rhythm, timing, body-movement and emotion.

Find out more - our Music postgraduate study  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Dr Witek’s main interest is in researching the psychology, cognitive science and cognitive philosophy of musical experience, with a focus on rhythm, timing, emotion and body-movement. Much of her work is centred on trying to understand how dance music experiences and practices emerge from interactions between embodied, neural, musical and social processes. She uses research methods from across experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, qualitative social psychology, digital music analysis and phenomenology. She is also a co-investigator on the Augmented Reality for Music Ensemble (ARME) project, which is testing a model of how music ensembles synchronise their playing to achieve a cohesive performance. The model will be used to develop a rehearsal system where musicians can practice with virtual ensembles that adapt their timing to the musician in real time.

Other activities

I frequently act as scientific advisor for artists and composers working outside academia, who actively incorporate scientific aspects of music in their work.


Recent publications


Danieli, L, Witek, M & Haworth, C 2021, 'Space, sonic trajectories and the perception of cadence in electroacoustic music', Journal of New Music Research . https://doi.org/10.1080/09298215.2021.1927116

Witek, M, Liu, J, Kuubertzie, J, Poku Yankyera, A, Adzei, S & Vuust, P 2020, 'A critical cross-cultural study of sensorimotor and groove responses to syncopation among Ghanaian and American university students and staff', Music Perception, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 278–297. https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2020.37.4.278

Stupacher, J, Witek, M, Vuoskoski, J & Vuust, P 2020, 'Cultural familiarity and individual musical taste differently affect social bonding when moving to music', Scientific Reports, vol. 10, 10015. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66529-1

Matthews, T, Witek, M, Lund, T, Vuust, P & Penhune, V 2020, 'The sensation of groove engages motor and reward networks', NeuroImage, vol. 214, 116768, pp. 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116768

Matthews, T, Witek, M, Heggli, OA, Penhune, V & Vuust, P 2019, 'The sensation of groove is affected by the interaction of rhythmic and harmonic complexity', PLoS ONE, vol. 14, no. 1, e0204539. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0204539

Vuust, P, Witek, M, Dietz, MJ & Kringelbach, ML 2018, 'Now you hear it: A predictive coding model for understanding rhythmic incongruity', Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13622

Witek, M 2017, 'Filling in: Syncopation, pleasure and distributed embodiment in groove', Music Analysis, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 138–160. https://doi.org/10.1111/musa.12082

Witek, M 2017, 'Syncopation affects free body-movement in musical groove', Experimental Brain Research, vol. 235, no. 4, pp. 995-1005. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4855-6

Witek, M & Vuust, P 2016, 'Comment on Solberg & Jensenius: The temporal dynamics of embodied pleasure in music', Empirical Musicology Review, vol. 11, no. 3-4, pp. 324-329. https://doi.org/10.18061/emr.v11i3-4.5353

Gebauer, L & Witek, M 2016, 'Oxytocin improves synchronisation in leader-follower interaction', Scientific Reports, vol. 6, 38416 . https://doi.org/10.1038/srep38416

Danielsen, A, Witek, M, Waadeland, CH & Sundt, HG 2015, 'Effects of instructed timing and tempo on snare drum sound in drum kit performance', The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol. 138, no. 4, pp. 2301-2316. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4930950

Witek, M, Kringelbach, ML & Vuust, P 2015, 'Musical rhythm and affect: Comment on "The Quartet Theory of Human Emotions: An Integrative and Neurofunctional Model" by S. Koelsch et al.', Physics of Life Reviews, vol. 13, pp. 92-94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plrev.2015.04.029

Witek, M, Clarke, EF, Kringelbach, ML & Vuust, P 2014, 'Effects of polyphonic context, instrumentation, and metrical location on syncopation in music', Music Perception, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 201-217. https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2014.32.2.201

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Witek, M 2022, The mind is a DJ: rhythmic entrainment in beatmatching and embodied temporal processing. in M Doffman, E Payne & T Young (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Time in Music. Oxford University Press. <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-handbook-of-time-in-music-9780190947279>

Witek, M 2019, Feeling at one: Socio-affective distribution, vibe and dance music consciousness. in Music and Consciousness 2: Worlds, practices, modalities. Oxford University Press.

View all publications in research portal