Dr Sinead Rocha

Lecturer in Psychology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Psychology and Sport Science

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Psychology

Research Supervision:Yes

Dr Sinead Rocha is Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, and a research associate at the University of Cambridge, and King’s College Cambridge. Sinead’s expertise is in infant cognitive development, and she is particularly interested in rhythm perception and production, language acquisition, and motor development.


Sinead joined the Psychology department at ARU in February 2022 as a Lecturer. Before joining the department, Sinead worked as a research associate on the BabyRhythm Project at the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge, a position she still holds part-time. Sinead is also a member of King’s College, Cambridge, where she teaches on the Bridging course, provides supervisions, and assists with PBS admissions. Prior to moving to Cambridge, Sinead completed her PhD at the world leading Birkbeck Babylab, where she helped develop the motion capture and electromyography facilities.

Research interests

Rhythm Perception and Production

Sinead is interested in why (and how) we humans grow into such musical beings. Her work elucidates the development of rhythm production, using optical motion capture, markerless motion capture, EMG and acoustic analyses, to track how infants’ natural rhythmic movement (spontaneous motor tempo), and their ability to adjust their rate of movement to rhythms that they hear (sensorimotor synchronisation) change over the first years of life. Sinead is interested in how rhythm relates to physical skills and experiences, as well as cognitive processes. For example, during her PhD with Professor Denis Mareshal and Professor Vicky Southgate, Sinead asked ‘Do we dance because we walk?’, arguing that the experience of being carried by the caregiver shapes infants’ rhythmic preferences.

In the Cambridge BabyRhythm project, with Professor Usha Goswami, Sinead is also looking at how these skills build our nascent language system. Here, Sinead also studies rhythm perception, via EEG studies examining cortical tracking of rhythm in speech and music, in collaboration with Dr Adam Attaheri, Dr Áine Ní Choisdealbha, and other members of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education.

Following the challenges of the global pandemic, Sinead has also been pursuing the goal of high-quality online data collection from infants, and is currently developing open source paradigms for infant rhythm data collection, in an ongoing collaboration with Dr Caspar Addyman.

Areas of research supervision

Dr Rocha is accepting applications for PhDs within her research interests as described above.


  • Body Brain & Mind
  • Current Theoretical Issues in Cognitive Neuroscience


  • PhD Developmental Science, Birkbeck, University of London (2018)
  • MSc Developmental Science, Birkbeck, University of London (2014)
  • BSc Psychology (Hons), University of Bath (2011)

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Enterprise and Engagement

Consultant to Herts For Learning (March 2022)

Delivered workshop entitled 'How early experience shapes the developing brain' for the HfL National Early Years Conference, reaching >200 early years education professionals  

Scientific Advisor to Early Years Theatre (2016 – Present)

Consultations with Filskit Theatre Company

Collaboration with Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, in the Wellcome Trust funded ‘Brain Waves’ festival: Co-developed a piece of theatre designed for infants aged 6 -18 months, informed by Sinead’s research on infant rhythm production and other research across developmental psychology, and including music composed for the show that drew upon Sinead’s research. The festival had an in-person reach of > 3000 people, and the resulting show ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ sold > 1000 tickets.

BabyBrains Trainer (2019 - 2021)

During maternity leave Sinead certified as a BabyBrains Trainer, delivering scientific content from psychology and neuroscience to parents and perinatal professionals. The BabyBrains mission is to empower parents with the latest scientific knowledge, facilitating their interaction with their children in the most effective way, and to improve the quality of development and of the parent-child relationship


2018-Present College Research Associate, King's College Cambridge (£600 per annum plus dining)

2017 Wellcome Trust ISSF Postdoctoral Fellowship (£18,827)*, Birkbeck

2014 Studentship for Latin American School for Education, Cognition and Neural Sciences, James S. MacDonnell Foundation

2014-17 Advanced Quantitative Methods stipend (£9000), ESRC Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre

2014-17 PhD studentship (£68,000), ESRC Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre

*Not taken due to acceptance of postdoctoral position at Cambridge


2017 ESCOM Award for Best Presentation (£200) 10th International SysMus Conference

2017 Wellcome Trust ISSF support for workshop (£2815)*, Birkbeck

2015 Funding for Interdisciplinary Initiatives (£600) ESRC, Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre

2015 Support for Short Meetings and Conferences (£2000) Guarantors of Brain

Selected recent publications

Rocha, S., & Addyman, C. (in press). Assessing sensorimotor synchronisation in toddlers using the Lookit online experiment platform and automated movement extraction. Frontiers in Psychology: Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/2g9sb

Rocha, S., Choisdealbha, Á. N., Attaheri, A., Mead, N., Olawole-Scott, H., Grey, C., ... & Goswami, U. C. (2022, pre-print). Language acquisition in the longitudinal BabyRhythm cohort. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/28c35

Attaheri, A., Choisdealbha, Á. N., Di Liberto, G. M., Rocha, S., Brusini, P., Mead, N., ... & Goswami, U. (2022). Delta-and theta-band cortical tracking and phase-amplitude coupling to sung speech by infants. NeuroImage, 247, 118698. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118698

Ní Choisdealbha, Á., Attaheri, A., Rocha, S., Mead, N., Olawole-Scott, H., Brusini, P., ... & Goswami, U. C. (2022). Cortical Oscillations in Pre-verbal Infants Track Rhythmic Speech and Non-speech Stimuli. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/vjmf6

Ní Choisdealbha, Á., Attaheri, A., Rocha, S., Brusini, P., Flanagan, S. A., Mead, N., ... & Goswami, U. (2022). Neural detection of changes in amplitude rise time in infancy. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 101075. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2022.101075

Rocha, S., Attaheri, A., Ní Choisdealbha, A., Brusini, P., Mead, N., Olawole-Scott, H., Boutris, P., Gibbon, S., Williams, I., Grey, C., Flannagan, S., Macrae, E. & Goswami, U. (2021, pre-print). Infant sensorimotor synchronisation to speech and non-speech rhythms: A longitudinal study. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/jbrga

Rocha, S., Southgate, V., & Mareschal, D. (2021b). Rate of infant carrying impacts infant spontaneous motor tempo. Royal Society Open Science, 8(9), 210608. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.210608

Rocha, S., Southgate, V. & Mareschal, D. (2021a). Infant Spontaneous Motor Tempo. Developmental Science. 24(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.13032

Gibbon, S., Attaheri, A., Ní Choisdealbha, A., Rocha, S., Brusini, P., Mead, N., Olawole-Scott, H., Boutris, P., Ahmed, H., Flannagan, S. Mandke, K., Keshavarzi, M., & Goswami, U. (2021). Deep learning classifies neural responses to rhythmic speech vs. non-speech from 8-week-old infant EEG. Brain and Language, 220, 104968. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2021.104968

Keshavarzi, M., Choisdealbha, Á. N., Attaheri, A., Rocha, S., Brusini, P., Gibbon, S., ... & Goswami, U. C. (2021, pre-print). Decoding speech information from EEG data with 4, 7 and 11 month-old infants: Contrasting convolutional neural network, mutual information-based and backward linear models. PsyArxiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/a6qfw

Rocha, S., & Mareschal, D. (2017). Getting into the Groove: The development of tempo‐flexibility between 10 and 18 months of age. Infancy, 22(4), 540-551. https://doi.org/10.1111/infa.12169

Addyman, C., Rocha, S., Fautrelle, L., French, R. M., Thomas, E., & Mareschal, D. (2016). Embodiment and the origin of interval timing: kinematic and electromyographic data. Experimental Brain Research, 9, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-016-4842-y

Addyman, C., Rocha, S., & Mareschal, D. (2014). Mapping the origins of time: Scalar errors in infant time estimation. Developmental Psychology, 50(8), 2030. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037108

Recent presentations and conferences

(2022, June). Assessing language development across infancy: Early experimental measures and longitudinal brain-behaviour associations [Presentation]. Workshop on Infant Language Development, BCBL, San Sebastian, Spain.

(2022, March). Babies, brains, beats and language [Presentation]. University of Maryland Phonology Circle, Washington DC., US.

(2022, January). Rhythm and language in infants: A motor perspective. [Virtual Presentation] 12th Annual Conference on Cognitive Development, Budapest, Hungary.

(2021, June). Infant sensorimotor synchronisation: A longitudinal analysis of the first year of life [Virtual Presentation]. 18th Biennial Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop, Oslo, Norway.

(2021, January). BabyRhythm at Home: The influence of parental sensorimotor synchronisation on infant rhythmic timing [Virtual Presentation]. 11th Annual CEU Conference on Cognitive Development, Budapest, Hungary.

(2020, July). BabyRhythm: Early infant audio-motor rhythmic synchronisation predicts later language outcomes [Virtual Presentation]. Virtual International Congress of Infant Studies.

(2020, January). Infant gross motor rhythmic synchronisation and relationships with language [Poster presentation]. 10th Annual CEU Conference on Cognitive Development, Budapest, Hungary.

(2019, June). Motion Capture with Infants [Invited Presentation]. Brain and Cognitive Development Day - Emerging Frontiers and Methods in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Cambridge, UK.

(2018, September). The BabyRhythm Project: Looking longitudinally at early rhythmic skill and language development [Invited Presentation]. BASIS Annual Scientific Meeting, London, UK.

(2018, March). Locomotion and Infant Rhythm [Poster presentation]. 30th Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar, Cambridge, UK.

(2017, September). Infant Spontaneous Motor Tempo [Presentation]. 10th International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology, London, UK.

(2017, July). Infant Spontaneous Motor Tempo: Correlations with age, body size, and parental body size [Presentation]. 16th Biennial Rhythm Perception and Production Workshop, Birmingham, UK.

(2016, September). What drives musical skill? An investigation of the development of rhythm production in infancy [Presentation]. British Psychological Society Developmental Psychology Section, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(2015, October). Charting the development of infant rhythm production using sEMG [Workshop presentation]. EMG Workshop - Using surface electromyography to study development: Methodological and theoretical considerations, London, UK. Workshop organised and chaired by S Rocha and C de Klerk.

Media experience

Sinead’s research has been covered by national and international news outlets, including The Times, The Daily Mail Online, The Huffington Post, BBC Radio 6 Music, and Les Matins LCI (French breakfast television).