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Health Sciences; Arts and Music

Floris van Vugt

Dialogue, empathie, communication, système sensorimoteur, la musique comme outil social

Professeur adjoint

Faculté des arts et des sciences - Département de psychologie

Marie-Victorin, room A-130-2

Secondary number: 514 343-6111 #3727 (Travail 1)


Research expertise

I was originally trained in mathematics and neuroimaging and now I'm interested in how we can have effective dialogue on challenging topics. In order to study this I work on empathy and interpersonal communication. I approach the question theoretically, through empirical study, and through on-the-ground interventions.


I’m interested in the sensorimotor system and human connection. I'm curious how the brain learns the connection between movement and perception. When you first learn to speak or play a musical instrument, you need to learn which movement results in which sound: a sensorimotor map. Once learned, these maps form the basis of the remarkable and ancient skill of playing music. Playing music helps foster tight bonds between humans and I’m interested in how we can use music as a tool for social integration, to bring about a world with more understanding between people.

I'm assistant professor at the psychology department of Université de Montréal. I was born several meters below sea level in the Netherlands and studied in exotic places such as Paris, Pisa, Los Angeles, Hanover and Lyon. I originally did mathematics but then retooled to become a cognitive scientist and theoretical linguist and I also worked on neurorehabilitation using music. I first came to Canada in 2014 for a postdoc at McGill and I guess I never really left. I play the baroque oboe and Armenian duduk as a pastime that got out of control. I'm also unreasonably passionate about Jungian dream psychology and interpersonal communication but don't get me started.


  • 2005 — BSc Liberal Arts & Sciences — — University College Utrecht
  • 2010 — MA — LinguistiqueUniversity of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • 2009 — Diplome — — École Normale Superieure Paris
  • 2009 — MSc Cognitive Science — — Paris-Descartes
  • 2014 — PhD — NeurosciencesLyon Neuroscience Research Center


Research projects

2022 - 2028

Learning sensorimotor maps through curiosity

Lead researcher : Floris van Vugt
Funding sources: CRSNG/Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et génie du Canada (CRSNG)
Grant programs: PVX20965-(RGP) Programme de subvention à la découverte individuelle ou de groupe
2022 - 2028

Learning sensorimotor maps through curiosity

Lead researcher : Floris van Vugt
Funding sources: CRSNG/Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et génie du Canada (CRSNG)
Grant programs: PVXXXXXX-(DGECR) Tremplin vers la découverte
2023 - 2025

Trouver de nouvelles façons de parler : essai de contrôle randomisé du Dialogue de Bohm

Lead researcher : Floris van Vugt
Funding sources: FRQNT/Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FQRNT)
Grant programs: PVXXXXXX-Engagement (financement partagé entre les fonds de recherche du Québec)
2023 - 2025

Towards an objective quantification of interpersonal understanding in real-world dialogue settings on complex issues

Lead researcher : Floris van Vugt
Funding sources: CRSH/Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada
Grant programs: PVX20020-Subvention institutionnelle du CRSH - Subventions d'exploration
2022 - 2025

Rôle de la curiosité dans l'apprentissage des cartes sensorimotrices

Funding sources: FRQNT/Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FQRNT)
Grant programs: PVXXXXXX-(NC) Établissement de la relève professorale
2022 - 2025

Multi-person physiological measurements: development of an open-source solution //CRBLM

Lead researcher : Denise Klein-Broomberg
Co-researchers : Floris van Vugt
Funding sources: FRQNT/Fonds de recherche du Québec - Nature et technologies (FQRNT)
Grant programs: PVXXXXXX-(RS) Programme de regroupements stratégiques


Publications and presentations


van Vugt FT, Near J, Hennessy T, Doyon J, Ostry DJ. (in press) Early stages of sensorimotor map acquisition: neurochemical signature in primary motor cortex and its relation to functional connectivity. J Neurophysiol. doi: 10.1152/jn.00285.2020

van Vugt FT. (in press) The TeensyTap framework for sensorimotor synchronization experiments. Adv Cogn Psychol. doi:

van Vugt FT, Altenmüller E. (2019) On the One Hand or on the Other: Trade-Off in Timing Precision in Bimanual Musical Scale Playing. Adv Cogn Psychol. doi: 10.5709/acp-0271-5

van Vugt FT, Ostry DJ. (2019) Early stages of sensorimotor map acquisition: learning with free exploration, without active movement or global structure. J Neurophysiol. doi: 10.1152/jn.00429.2019

Sidarta A, van Vugt FT, Ostry DJ. (2018) Somatosensory working memory in human reinforcement-based motor learning. J Neurophysiol. doi: 10.1152/jn.00442.2018

Bernardi NF, van Vugt FT, Valle-Mena R, Vahdat S, Ostry DJ. (2018) Error-related Persistence of Motor Activity in Resting-state Networks. J Cogn Neurosci. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01323

van Vugt FT, Ostry DJ. (2018) From known to unknown: moving to unvisited locations in a novel sensorimotor map. Ann N Y Acad Sci. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13608

van Vugt FT, Ostry DJ. (2018) The Structure and Acquisition of Sensorimotor Maps. J Cogn Neurosci. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01204

van Vugt FT, Kafczyk T, Kuhn W, Rollnik JD, Tillmann B, Altenmüller E. (2016) The role of auditory feedback in music-supported stroke rehabilitation: A single-blinded randomised controlled intervention. Restor Neurol Neurosci. doi: 10.3233/RNN-150588

Vaquero L, Hartmann K, Ripollés P, Rojo N, Sierpowska J, François C, Càmara E, van Vugt FT, Mohammadi B, Samii A, Münte TF, Rodríguez-Fornells A, Altenmüller E. (2016) Structural neuroplasticity in expert pianists depends on the age of musical training onset. Neuroimage. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.11.008

Schultz BG, van Vugt FT. (2016) Tap Arduino: An Arduino microcontroller for low-latency auditory feedback in sensorimotor synchronization experiments. Behav Res Methods. doi: 10.3758/s13428-015-0671-3

van Vugt FT, Tillmann B. (2015) Auditory feedback in error-based learning of motor regularity. Brain Res. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2015.02.026

van Vugt FT, Furuya S, Vauth H, Jabusch HC, Altenmüller E. (2014) Playing beautifully when you have to be fast: spatial and temporal symmetries of movement patterns in skilled piano performance at different tempi. Exp Brain Res. doi: 10.1007/s00221-014-4036-4

van Vugt FT, Ritter J, Rollnik JD, Altenmüller E. (2014) Music-supported motor training after stroke reveals no superiority of synchronization in group therapy. Front Hum Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00315

van der Steen MC, van Vugt FT, Keller PE, Altenmüller E. (2014) Basic timing abilities stay intact in patients with musician's dystonia. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092906

van Vugt FT, Tillmann B. (2014) Thresholds of auditory-motor coupling measured with a simple task in musicians and non-musicians: was the sound simultaneous to the key press?. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087176

van Vugt FT, Boullet L, Jabusch HC, Altenmüller E. (2014) Musician's dystonia in pianists: long-term evaluation of retraining and other therapies. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2013.08.009

van Vugt FT, Treutler K, Altenmüller E, Jabusch HC. (2013) The influence of chronotype on making music: circadian fluctuations in pianists' fine motor skills. Front Hum Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00347

van Vugt FT, Jabusch HC, Altenmüller E. (2013) Individuality That is Unheard of: Systematic Temporal Deviations in Scale Playing Leave an Inaudible Pianistic Fingerprint. Front Psychol. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00134

van Vugt FT, Schüpbach M, Altenmüller E, Bardinet E, Yelnik J, Hälbig TD. (2013) Effects of dopaminergic and subthalamic stimulation on musical performance. J Neural Transm (Vienna). doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0923-7

van Vugt FT, Jabusch HC, Altenmüller E. (2012) Fingers Phrase Music Differently: Trial-to-Trial Variability in Piano Scale Playing and Auditory Perception Reveal Motor Chunking. Front Psychol. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00495

van Vugt FT, Cavanagh P. (2012) Response trajectories reveal conflict phase in image-word mismatch. Atten Percept Psychophys. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0261-0


  • Psychology
  • Neurosciences
  • Music
  • Communication

Areas of expertise

  • Empathy
  • Social neuroscience
  • Emotions
  • Sensory neuropsychology
  • Brain and music
  • Motor control
  • Psychophysiological reactivity