Dr. Clara James
Privat Docent at the FPSE UNIGE

Full Professor UAS at the Geneva School of Health Sciences, HES-SO

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Clara E. James is Full Professor UAS and Head of Applied Research and Development at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Western Switzerland HES-SO - School of Health Sciences Geneva, and Privat Docent at the Psychology Department (FPSE) of the University of Geneva (UNIGE) within the NEAD (Neuroscience of Emotions and Affective Dynamics) Laboratory of Prof. D. Grandjean. In 2019 she funded the GEMMI lab: Geneva Musical Minds Lab that is part of the Geneva University Neurocenter, Switzerland.
After a career as a professional musician (violinist), she obtained BSc & MSc degrees in cognitive and experimental Psychology and finally a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Geneva in 2008.
She was principal investigator of Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF no. 125050 (2009-2014). Together with her co-investigators (Prof. C.-A. Hauert (FPSE), Prof. D. Van De Ville (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, EPFL), Prof. F. Lazeyras (Medical Faculty UNIGE) & Dr. M. Oechslin (FPSE)) she could show progressive changes in cognitive behavior, brain functioning (EEG, fMRI), and brain structure for gray and white matter as a function of musical training intensity in young adults.
Together with Prof. M. Kliegel (FPSE), she led a research project (2016-2019) on the Orchestra in Class program in Geneva, developed by the Geneva music school “l’Accademia d’Archi”, funded by an anonymous sponsor. The study followed schoolchildren (10-12 y.o.a.) who received intensive string instrument practice over 2 years, compared to traditional sensitization to music. Enhanced development for music processing, working memory, attention, processing speed, matrix reasoning, sensorimotor hand function and bimanual coordination manifested in the intervention group compared to the control group.
In November 2017 C.E. James obtained a Lead agency project together with Prof. E. Altenmüller (Hannover University of Music, Drama and Media, Germany), of which she led the Swiss part, financed by the SNSF (no.170410; 2018-2022), together with Prof. M. Kliegel and Prof. D. Van De Ville. The project investigated the potential positive impact of intensive piano training (12 months) on brain aging and cognitive decline as compared to musical culture lessons in healthy elderly. Results clearly show cognitive and cerebral benefits of music training in elderly, particularly following piano practice.
Subsequently, she received mutual grants from Alzheimer Suisse and the Gebauer Foundation for an RCT study on elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment aiming to promote recovery through music practice as compared to psychomotor training (2020-2023), compared to a healthy matched control group. Collaborators are co-investigator Dr. D. Marie (Center for Biomedical Imaging (CIBM), UNIGE) and project partners Prof. G. Frisoni (HUG, Geneva University Hospitals), Andrea Brioschi Guevara (CHUV, Lausanne University Hospital), Prof. M. Kliegel and Prof. I. Mili (FPSE, University of Geneva) as well as Prof. C. Tschopp from the Haute école de travail social de Genève HES-SO (Psychomotor Department).
As co-investigator (PI Prof. A.-V. Bruyneel, PhD in Physiotherapy), C.E. James also works on health prevention in music students in collaboration with the Geneva University of Music, financed by the HES-SO in 2022.
In the spring of 2023, C. E. James obtained SNSF grant no. 214977, together with scientific partners Prof. M. Kliegel, Dr. J. Richiardi (CHUV), and Dr. D. Marie. This project will investigate via an RCT the impact of Orchestra in Class, compared to Visual Arts and a passive control group on executive functions and their cerebral substrates in young primary school children. The project will start in the fall of 2023.

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

Research interests
• Neuronal substrates at the root of perceptive, cognitive, and motor functioning
• Experience-driven brain and behavioral plasticity following musical, artistic, andphysical activity over the lifespan
• Links between general and musical cognition and their neuronal substrates
• Cognitive and brain features of musicians with absolute pitch
• Developing musical, artistic and physical non-pharmacological interventions that:
- Countervail age-induced cognitive and sensorimotor decline and brain degeneration
- Boost cognitive, sensorimotor, and associated brain development in normally developing children