Dr Peter Lovatt


 In the Laboratory

Our Research Team

Turning ideas in to data

Dr Peter Lovatt

Reader in Psychology

Experimental Cognitive Psychologist with an interest in movement

Dr Lucy Annett


Neuroscientist with an interest in the biological basis of behaviour

Dr Dawn Rose

Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Music Psychologist with an interest in rhythm and timing

Current Ongoing Projects

The following descriptions of research projects were written by Dawn, Becki and Anna respectively.

Dawn Rose PhD – Music Psychologist.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Dance Psychology Lab

Working alongside Dr Peter Lovatt and Dr Lucy Annett


Music and Movement


As a music psychologist, I am interested in the interactions between music and dance. More specifically, which types – or aspects of – music motivates which type of movements, or vice versa? Are the music and movements synchronised exactly or related in some other way (in terms of arousal and valence)? We are starting at a basic level, comparing body movement responses to metronomes and music. 

We are using a simple continuous walking ‘on the spot’ motion as a proxy for dance in comparison to other body movements (such as finger tapping) which are less dance related. This first stage will help us understand which musical cues provide sensory information of when in time to move. The next stage will be to investigate how visual cues (e.g. other people dancing) help us understand where and how to move in space. This I consider to be the ‘heard and observed’ aspects of dance which may be helpful to people with Parkinson’s, for example. More specifically for science, these factors will help us understand the mechanisms involved in the interaction between music and dance in terms of information processing for motor response, planning and execution.


My belief is that taking a parsimonious approach to research does not de-value the art involved, as these aims are in line with the aims of dancers, dance practitioners. 

We all want to know when and how and why dancing makes us feel better! 



Rebecca (Becki) Hadley – PhD Student


Supervised in Dance Psychology Lab by Dr Lucy Annett and Dr Peter Lovatt

and in Sports Sciences by Dr Lindsay Bottoms


Quantity of Movement


At the University of Hertfordshire, we are lucky to have a Dance for Parkinson’s class. Many of the attendees anecdotally report feeling better and more active in the hours and days following the class. My PhD research explores whether the amount of movement involved in taking part in dance, and other types of activity, is related to the benefits people with Parkinson's experience in movement, mood and quality of life. Studies to date have predominantly used subjective measures to assess such benefits which, though insightful, rely heavily on the participant accurately reporting their own behaviours. To obtain a more objective assessment of movement, I am using wearable technology, specifically activity trackers called accelerometers. These allow us to explore the amount and pattern of movement made by people with Parkinson’s during and after attending a dance class. If we can accurately track movement during one type of exercise, then we can investigate how movement made during other types of activities relates to the physical and psychological benefits received. 


By starting to systematically tease apart the basic elements that underlie certain physical activities, such as movement or music, we can begin to understand how (or if) each component contributes to the benefits people with Parkinson’s receive. Though it may seem too simplistic to reduce an activity, such as dance, down to just the amount of movement, I believe that this is very much the starting point of being able to address larger unanswered questions regarding whether the type and amount of activity is important for improved well-being in people with Parkinson’s. 


We all want to improve the well-being of people with Parkinson’s, but many of us differ on our understanding about how this is demonstrated through research. I believe that taking a scientific approach to the field of dance and Parkinson’s isn’t about disproving what is currently known, but is necessary to provide an evidence base that will be widely accepted by professionals across multiple disciplines. This provides a great opportunity for the sciences and arts to work collaboratively, and innovatively, in order to achieve this.



Anna Goodchild – Qualified Physiotherapist

Studying for MSc in Psychology

Supervised by Dr Peter Lovatt


Moving with a Partner


Dance is a multifaceted activity combining physical, cognitive and social components. I am interested in the social element of dance, specifically what effect moving in a group, or a pair, has on an individuals’ movement patterns. A fascinating phenomenon is the seemingly spontaneous ability of two individuals to synchronise their footsteps when walking side by side. It has been demonstrated that an individual who is weighted on one leg to create an asymmetric gait pattern will achieve symmetry when walking beside a partner, despite a lack of explicit prompts to achieve this. A question to ask, therefore, is whether moving in partnership with a healthy individual can positively influence the movement patterns of an individual with Parkinson’s Disease. As a physiotherapist, now studying an MSc in psychology, I am exploring this question. Specifically, I am investigating whether a person with Parkinson’s disease will synchronise their steps to those of a healthy individual when walking side by side. Furthermore, I am assessing whether the presence of a health walking partner improves the gait pattern (increased stride length and stride velocity) of a person with Parkinson’s disease and whether the addition of a tactile stimulus, in the form of hand holding, improves this further.


This project adopts a reductionist approach to begin to dissect how, and why, moving in synchrony with another may benefit those with Parkinson’s disease, such as the benefits reported after a dance class. Utilising this approach does not negate the use of holistic investigations. Instead, it aims to add another piece to the puzzle, with the intention of further understanding and implementing evidence based interventions that improve the physical and psychological quality of life for those with Parkinson’s Disease.



Why do People Dance?

Write Up 1: Why don't men dance?

Peter has carried out a survey asking why people either do or don't dance. The responses, from 966 people, are being written up using qualitative methods.

Project Team: Dr Peter Lovatt

Dance for Health

Book chapter on Dance, Health and Well-being

Peter has been writing about the relationship between engaging with dance and the associated health benefits. In this chapter he explores some of the gender issues in dance for health research.

Project Team: Dr Peter Lovatt

Rhythm & Timing

Experiment 1: Synchronization and Continuation Tapping Task

Investigating the ability to finger tap, toe tap and march in time with a metronome and music in people with and without Parkinson’s disease.

Project Team: Dr Dawn Rose, Dr Peter Lovatt & Dr Lucy Annett (Department of Psychology and Sport Sciences, University of Hertfordshire.

Experiment 2: Beat perception abilities in people with and without Parkinson’s disease.

This study investigates whether Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects the perception of an underlying beat (tactus) embedded in real musical excerpts as ecologically valid stimuli.

Project Team: Dr Dawn Rose, Dr Peter Lovatt & Dr Lucy Annett (Department of Psychology and Sport Sciences, University of Hertfordshire.