roberts(Ph.D., Minnesota)
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link to the Human Neural Plasticity Lab
905-525-9140, ext.24052





The specific features of many sounds that we hear and the significance attached to these sounds are unique for each individual and cannot be anticipated by a genetic code. To meet the challenge of uniqueness, the brain contains mechanisms for neural plasticity that tune auditory neurons to represent the sounds that are meaningful to us. We use brain imaging and acoustic training methods to understand how neural plasticity modifies sensory maps in children and adults and to uncover the principles and mechanisms involved.  The knowledge gained from laboratory studies is applied to understand how plasticity sculpts foundations for auditory skills in professional musicians and in children receiving music training and how it may generate tinnitus (chronic ringing of the ears), an auditory deafferentation syndrome affecting quality of life for millions of individuals world-wide.  By understanding tinnitus we gain insight into how the brain generates the sensation of sound.

Some of our current journal publications are listed below. Learn more about us by visiting our laboratory website at  Inquiries from prospective students are welcome.

  • Roberts LE, Eggermont JJ, Caspary DC, Shore SE, Melcher JR, Kaltenbach JA  (2010)  Ringing ears: The neuroscience of tinnitus.  Journal of Neuroscience 30:14972–14979.
  • Gander PE, Bosnyak, DJ, and Roberts LE (2010b).  Acoustic experience but not attention modifies neural population phase expressed in human primary auditory cortex.  Hearing Research  269:81-94.
  • Gander PE, Bosnyak, DJ, and Roberts LE (2010a).  Evidence for modality-specific but not frequency-specific modulation of human primary auditory cortex by attention.  Hearing Research 268:213-226. 
  • Shahin AJ, Trainor LJ, Roberts LE, Backer CC, Miller, LM  (2010) Development of auditory phase-locked activity for music sounds  J. Neurophysiology 103:218-229. 
  • Trainor LJ, Shahin AJ, Roberts LE (2009).  Understanding the benefits of musical training: effects on oscillatory brain activity.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1169:133-42.
  • Roberts LE, Moffat G, Baumann, M, Ward LM, and Bosnyak DJ. (2008). Residual inhibition functions overlap tinnitus spectra and the region of auditory threshold shift.  Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology (JARO).  9:417-435.
  • Shahin AJ, Roberts LE, Chau W, Trainor LJ, and Miller LM (2008).  Music training leads to the development of timbre-specific gamma band activity.  Neuroimage 41:113-122. 
  • Wienbruch C, Paul I, Weisz N, Elbert T, Roberts LE. (2006)  Frequency organization of the 40-Hz auditory steady-state response in normal hearing and in tinnitus. Neuroimage 33:180-194.
  • Eggermont JJ,  Roberts LE  (2004)  The neuroscience of tinnitus.  Trends in Neurosciences, 27:676-682. 
  • Bosnyak, D.J., Eaton, R.A, & Roberts, L.E. (2004).  Distributed auditory cortical representations are modified by training at pitch discrimination with 40-Hz amplitude modulated tones.  Cerebral Cortex 14:1088-l099. 
  • Shahin A, Bosnyak D, Trainor LJ, & Roberts LE (2003). Enhancement of Neuroplastic P2 and N1c Auditory Evoked Potentials in Musicians Journal of Neuroscience 23:5545-5552.

Brief Biographical Sketch

Dr. Roberts received his PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1965 and is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at McMaster University.  His research with colleagues Antoine Shahin, Laurel Trainor, and Daniel Bosnyak on how music training alters brain activity in professional musicians and in children enrolled in Suzuki music programs has been reported by the CBC, ABC, CNN, and Bloomberg Radio Networks, by the Globe and Mail, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, Hamilton Spectator, and the New York Times.   In 2002 Roberts organized a consortium of five laboratories in Canada and two abroad to investigate the neural basis of tinnitus and in November 2010 headed up a symposium on the topic at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California.  Roberts has held Guest Professorships at the University of Tuebingen (Germany) and the Humboldt University (Berlin) funded by the Deutsche Forchungsgemeinschaft and has been a faculty member in the Summer Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College (USA).  From 2003-2008 he directed the MEG laboratory of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation in Vancouver B.C. (affiliated with Simon Fraser University) while continuing to direct his laboratory at McMaster.  His research has been supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the American Tinnitus Association, and the Tinnitus Research Initiative. 


Contact Department

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (PNB)
Psychology Building (PC), Room 102
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton Ontario L8S 4K1