Clara James 1

Clara James

Function: Privat-Docent

Group name: Geneva Musical Minds Lab (GEMMI lab)   

Group type: Main

Affiliations: Faculty of Psychology and Science of Education

Domains: Development and Plasticity, Sensory and Motor Systems, Perception, Attention and Cognition

Keywords: brain plasticity, child development, countervail cognitive decline, musical and physical training regimens

Research activities

The Geneva Musical Minds Laboratory (GEMMI lab) is led by Clara James, Privat Docent at the FPSE of the UNIGE, Full Professor UAS at the Geneva School of Health Sciences HES-SO and professional musician.

Clara James develops and studies musical and physical interventions aiming to countervail cognitive, sensorimotor, and cerebral decline in elderly and promote development in typically developing and high-risk children.

An international longitudinal RCT, in collaboration with Prof. Eckart Altenmüller (HMTMH, Hannover, Germany), Prof. Prof. M. Kliegel (FPSE UNIGE) and Prof. D. Van De Ville (EPFL; FacMed UNIGE) compares the impact of piano practice versus music listening and understanding (SNSF 100019E-170410 ; 2018-2021). Different MRI techniques were used to study brain function and structure in both groups (fMRI, resting state MRI, VBM, DTI, ASL), in relationship to cognitive and sensorimotor behavior. The project closed officially in September 2021 and several publications came out, showing multiple benefits following the musical interventions, particularly for the piano group. However, the publishing process is ongoing.

Clara James also studied the impact of an “Orchestra in Class” program on cognitive and sensorimotor development in primary school children, showing broad cognitive and sensorimotor benefits.

Financed by Alzheimer Suisse (2019) and the Gebauer Foundation (2020) she now performs an RCT on elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment aiming to promote recovery or stabilization through music practice as compared to psychomotor training (2020-2022). Control groups consist of healthy controls matched for age, gender, and education level. Collaborators are Dr. D. Marie, co-investigator, and project partners Prof. G. Frisoni (HUG, Geneva), Dr. A. Brioschi Guevara (CHUV, Lausanne), Prof. M. Kliegel and Prof. I. Mili (FPSE UNIGE) as well as Prof. C. Junker Tschopp from the Haute école de travail social de Genève HES-SO (Psychomotor Department). The project was delayed by COVID and data collection will carry on till 31.12.2022.

Previously, C. James performed fundamental research (SNSF 100014_125050). Together with her co-authors she could show progressive changes in cognitive behavior, brain functioning (EEG, fMRI), and brain structure for gray (VBM) and white matter (DTI), as a function of musical training intensity.

She also studied brain and behavioral correlates of absolute pitch.

Clara James teaches “Neuropsychology of Music” at the Psychology Department of the University of Geneva (Master’s level).

Site web du groupe

Key publications

See the complete list of the publications



Faculté de psychologie et scie
Université de Genève
Haute Ecole de Santé de Genève