I studied in Italy at the Universities of Padua (BSc/MSc Psychology Magna cum Laude; awarded the Italian Society of Psychology prize for best dissertation yrs. 1980-82) and Bologna (PhD Psychology).
I spent a post-doctoral period at the University of Stirling to work with George Butterworth at the Infant Study Unit, thanks to grants from the Italian CNR and European Science Foundation. I remained as post-doctoral fellow to extend the research thanks to grants from the ESRC.
In 1991 I became a tenured lecturer at the University of Padua. I spent a sabbatical year at the University of Cambridge in 1996 and I relocated to London for family reasons in 1998, when I joined Middlesex University.
I was Visiting Professor at the University of Roma-Tre, Rome, during a sabbatical term in 2006, and Visiting Scholar at LPL (Laboratoire Parole et Langage) CNRS UMR 7309, University of Aix-Marseille, during a sabbatical period in 2014.
I am Life Member of Clare Hall (Cambridge) since 1997. I joined the Developmental Psychology Editorial Board of Frontiers in Pediatrics and Psychology in 2015, AIRS (Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing) in 2016 and I am Action Editor for Music & Science (SEMPRE in association with Sage), from 2018. I am a member of The British Psychological Society / Developmental Section.
English; Italian (native); French (fluent); Spanish (basic).
PhD Programme in Behavioural Studies at the University of Chieti-Pescara (Italy) - international advisor
PhD Programme in Educational and Pedagigical Sciences (SPEF) at the University of Padua (Italy) - international advisor
Supervision of empirical projects:
I welcome Dissertation projects in the following areas:
My main research focus is on infant communication and the development of language. In the course of my career I studied the development of a first sound-meaning system based on nonsegmental features in infant prelinguistic vocalisations; infant-directed speech; and joint attention, in particular the pointing gesture in infants. More recently I have begun to study the relationship between language and music in the development of human communication.
I have established the Middlesex babyLab , a research laboratory dedicated to infant research and including observation facilities with AV digital support, sound-isolating booth, preferential looking/listening, Tobii eye-tracking.
I am interested also in a number of other aspects of developmental psychology concerning young children's cognition and emotion in typical and atypical groups.
Cognitive benefits of music exposure; Reading and musical expertise; Movement synchronization and affiliation; Music and emotion.
I have established the Music Cognition & Communication Lab with a group of collaborators and students: MCCLab
- Tatiana Sobolewska (PhD student), DoS
- Jwaad Hussain (PhD student), co-supervisor
- Maria Chifa (MSc by Research), DoS
- Alice Bowner (PhD at Goldmsith's University of London), external advisor
- Dr Maria Chiara Pino (L'Aquila University, Italy), Visiting Researcher 2021-22.
MusiCare (Principal Investigator): international cooperation project funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust ((300K) to investigate the effects of different types of music therapy on cognitive functions and well-being in older adults living independently or in care homes.
Musical activities, language development and parenting in infants and preschoolers (with N. Polytimou, UCL/Institute of Education, and T. Hadar, Lesley University Boston)
Infant-directed singing and musical interactions with infants and young children in hunter-gatherers' societies (with J. Lewis, Anthropology/University College London, and S. Falk, Montreal University)
Reading abilities and types of musical expertise in typical and dyslexic readers (with N. Brunswick, Middlesex University)
Development of a Social Cognition test battery for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (with M.C Pino and M. Mazza, L'Aquila University, Italy).
Chifa, M., Hadar, T., Politimou, N., Reynolds, G., Franco, F. (2021). The Soundscape of Neonatal Intensive Care: A Mixed-Methods Study of the Parents’ Experience. Children, 8, 644, doi.org/10.3390/children8080644.
Papadimitriou, A., Smyth, C., Politimou. N., Franco, F., Stewart, L. (2021). The impact of the home musical environment on infants' language development. Infant Behavior & Development (in press, accepted 30.09.2021)
Mangiacotti, A., Franco, F., Hsu, M. Hung, and Biasutti, M. (2021). Evaluating a professional development course on cognitive functions for Music Therapists working in care homes. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 74, 101800.
Falk, S., Fasolo, M., Genovese, G., Romero-Lauro, E., & Franco, F. (2021). Sing for me mama! ID-singing facilitates phonetic discrimination in infancy. Infancy, 26(2), 248-270, doi: 10.1111/infa.12387.
Ward, E.V, Alex, I., Donnelly, M., Van Puyvelde, M., Franco, F. (2021). Memory improvements in aging as a function of mood-matching music. Acta Psychologica, 212, 103206, doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2020.103206.
Franco, F., Fasolo, M., Kozar, I., Spinelli, M., and Suttora, C. (2020) Singing to infants Matter: Early singing interactions affect musical preferences and facilitate vocabulary building. Journal of Child Language, 1–26, doi.org/10.1017/S0305000921000167.
Politimou, N., Douglass-Kirk, P., Pearce, M., Stewart, L., & Franco, F. (2020). Melodic expectations in 5-and 6-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 203, 105020.
Schaal, N.K., Politimou, N., Franco, F., Stewart, L., and Mullensiefen, D., (2020). The German Music@Home: Validation of a questionnaire measuring at home musical exposure and interaction of young children. PlosOne, 15(8):e0235923.
Politimou, N., Faruggia, N., Dalla Bella, S., and Franco, F. (2019). Born to speak and sing: Musical predictors of language development in preschoolers. Frontiers in Psychology, 24 May 2019 | doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00948.
Mangiacotti, A., Hsu, M. H., Barone, C., Di Liberto, G., Van Puyvelde, M., Biasutti, M., & Franco, F. (2019). Effects of music therapy in elderly care: cognition, biomarkers, mood and social behaviour. Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, 15(7), P1144.
Politimou, N., Mullensiefen, D., Stewart, L., and Franco, F. (2018). The Music@Home Questionnaires: A new tool to assess informal musical interactions in infants and preschoolers PlosOne, 13(4): e0193819. ISSN 1932-6203, doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193819.
Hadar, T., Boem, S., and Franco, F. (2018). Comparing the benefits of flute and singing groups for parents and infants on the development of communication. In Guadagnini, M. and Degli Stefani, M. (eds), Dinamiche di gruppo e musicalitá. Padova: CLEUP Onlus. ISBN 978 88 6787 975 5.
Tuedor, M., Franco, F., White, A., Smith, S. and Adams, R. (2018). Testing literacy educational software to develop design guidelines for children with autism. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, ISSN: 1034-912X (Print) 1465-346X (Online) DOI: 10.1080/1034912X.2018.1450494
Pino, M.C., Mazza, M., Mariano, M., Peretti, S., Dimitriou, D., Masedu, F., Valenti, M., and Franco, F. (2017). Simple mind-reading abilities predict complex Theory of Mind: Developmental delay in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, DOI: 10.1007/s10801-017-3194-1.
Franco, F., and Angelova, S. (2016). Emotion-related musical variables affect person perception:Differential effects for men and women in a synchronization task. Interaction Studies 17:2, 306-320, DOI: 10.1075/is.17.2.06fra.
Franco, F., Chew, M., and Swaine (2016). Preschoolers' attribution of affect to music: A comparison between vocal and instrumental performance. Psychology of Music, 1st August online, DOI: 10.1177/0305735616652954.
Van Puyvelde, M., and Franco, F. (2015). The interaction of music and language in the ontogenesis of human communication: A multimodal parent-infant co-regulation system. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Multimodal Experience of Music 2015. Sheffield (UK): HRI Online Publications, ISBN 978-0-9571022-4-8. Available online at:
Gettings, S., Franco, F., & Santosh, P. (2015). Audio-conferencing as a method of facilitating sibling support groups: a pilot study. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 9:8 doi:10.1186/s13034-015-0041-z.
Franco, F., Swaine, J.S., Israni, S., Zaborowska, K.A., Kaloko, F., Kesavarajan, I. and Majek, J.A. (2014). Affect-matching music improves cognitive performance in adults and young children for both positive and negative emotions. Psychology of Music, DOI: 10.1177/0305735614548500.
Franco, F., Pomorska, K., Abramowski, A., Itakura, S., and Nikaido, K. & D. Demetriou (2014). Can children with autism read emotions from the eyes? The Eyes Test revisited. Research in Developmental Disabilities, DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.01.037.
Franco, F. Embodied attention in infant pointing. In J. Metcalfe & H. Torrace (Eds.), Agency & Joint Attention. NY: Oxford University Press, 2013 (pp. 152-164) (ISBN 978-0-19-998834-1).
Franco, F., and Cross, I. (Guest Editors). Introduction to The Music of Language, The Language of Music: Meaning and Entrainment Questions. Empirical Musicology Review, 2012, Special Issue vol. 7/1-2, 2-4.
Franco, F., & Martiskova, J. (2011). Can young children recognize emotion in the human voice? (Schopnosť rozpoznávania emócií z ľudského hlasu u detí predškolského veku). In E. Klčovanská & A. Topoľská (Eds) Psychologická teória a prax očami absolventa KP FF TU. Trnava (Slovakia): Trnava University Press, 2011 (pp. 125-132) (ISBN 978-80-8082-387-0).
Major, A., Franco, F., & Zotovic, M., Preschoolers understanding of implicit causality and theory of mind development: A comparison between Serbian and Hungarian monolingual children (in English). Psihologija, 2010, 43/2,187-198. DOI:10.2298/PSI1002187M; UDC 159.955.072-053.4.
Franco, F., Brunswick, N., & de Mornay Davies, P. Music of Language, Language of Music. The Psychologist, 2010, 11/3, 913-914.
Franco, F., Perucchini, P., & March, B. Is infant initiation of joint attention by pointing affected by type of interaction? Social Development, 2009, 18 (1), 51-76.
D’Odorico, L., Assanelli, A., Franco, F., Jacob, V. A follow-up study on Italian Late Talkers: Development of language, short-term memory, phonological awareness, impulsiveness and attention. Applied Psycholinguistics, 2007, 28, 157-169.
Franco, F. Infant pointing: Harlequin, servant of two masters. In N. Eilan, C. Hoerl, T. McCormack, J. Roessler (Eds.) Joint attention: Communication and other minds. Problems in philosophy and psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 (pp. 129-164).
Assanelli, A., D'Odorico, L., Franco, F., & Salerni, N. Language delay and joint attention. Psicologia Clinica dello Sviluppo, 2005, IX N.2, 289-314.
Levorato, C., Franco, F., Tasso, A., Russell, J. Implicit causality in verbs of visual perception: A crosslinguistic comparison between English and Italian. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 2005, XXXII N. 3, 131-154.
Butterworth, G., Franco, F., McKenzie, B., Graupner, L., & Todd, B. Dynamic aspects of visual event perception and the production of pointing by human infants. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2002, 20, 1-24.
Franco, F., & Gagliano, A. Toddler’s pointing when joint attention is obstructed. First Language, 2001, 21, 289-321.
Russell, J., Hill, E., & Franco, F. The role of belief veracity in understanding intentions-in-action: Preschool children's performance on the transparent intentions task. Cognitive Development, 2001, 16, 775-792.
Assanelli, A., Salerni, N., Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Linguisitc delay and gestural communication. ELA2001 Proceedings, 2001.
Franco, F., Levorato, C., Tasso, A., Russell, J. Cross-linguistic developmental evidence of implicit causality in visual perception and cognition verbs. In M. Perkins & S. Howard (Eds.) New directions in language development and disorders. New York: Plenum, 2000 (pp. 189-198).
Franco, F. The development of meaning in infancy: Early communication and social understanding. In S. Hala (Ed.) The development of social cognition. Hove: Psychology Press, 1997 (pp. 95-160).
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. Preverbal communication in young children with Down syndrome. In M. Aldridge (Ed.) Proceedings of the Child Language Seminar. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd., 1996 (pp. 52-65).
Franco, F., & Butterworth, G. Pointing and social awareness: Declaring and requesting in the second year. Journal of Child Language, 1996, 23, 307-336.
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. Gestural communication development in children with Down syndrome. In R. Vianello & C. Cornoldi (Eds.), Handicap e apprendimento: Ricerche e proposte di intervento (Handicap and learning: Research and intervention). Bergamo: Junior, 1995 (pp. 55-69).
Franco, F., & Longobardi, E. Assessment of communication and early language. In G. Axia (Ed.), La valutazione dello sviluppo (Assessment of development). Roma: La Nuova Italia, 1994 (pp. 117-151).
Butterworth, G., & Franco, F. Motor development: communication and cognition. In L. Kalverboer, B. Hopkins, R.H. Gueze (Eds.) A longitudinal approach to the study of motor development in early and later childhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993 (pp. 153-165).
Jenkins, J., Franco, F., Dolins, F., & Sewell, A. Toddlers' reactions to negative emotion displays: Forming models of relationships. Infant Behavior and Development, 1995, 18, 273-281.
Franco, F., & Wishart, J. The use of pointing and other gestures by young children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 1995, 100/2, 160-182.
Franco, F. Some social perception processes in adult-infant interaction: An experimental approach. In G. Di Stefano and M. Tallandini (Eds.), Meccanismi e processi di sviluppo nell'interpretazione post-piagetiana (Mechanisms and processes of development in post-Piagetian modeling). Milano: Cortina, 1991 (pp. 359-398).
Franco, F., Evidence, interpretation and theories about object permanence in the sensorimotor period. In G. Di Stefano and M. Tallandini (Eds.) Meccanismi e processi di sviluppo nell'interpretazione post-piagetiana (Mechanisms and processes of development in post-Piagetian modeling). Milano: Cortina, 1991 (pp. 249-302).
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Adult-infant interaction as a context for communicative development. In V. Ugazio (Ed.) I condizionamenti educativi (Educational constraints on development). Milano: Angeli, 1991 (pp. 184-208).
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Selective production of vocalisations in different communication contexts. Journal of Child Language, 1991, 18, 475-99.
Franco, F., D'Odorico, L., & Campbell, R. Children's knowledge about infants. Eta' Evolutiva, 1990, 39, 91-96.
Franco, F., Arcuri, L., & Cadinu, M. Implicit causality in interpersonal verbs: a test with Italian. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1990, XVII/1, 159-174.
Franco, F., & Arcuri, L. Implicit causality of verbs: Effects of semantic valence. British Journal of Social Psychology, 1990, 26, 61-70.
Franco, F. Analysis of preverbal communicative development. In L. Camaioni and F. Simion (Eds.) Metodi di ricerca in psicologia dello sviluppo (Research methods in developmental psychology). Bologna: Il Mulino, 1989 (pp. 237-267).
Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Baby Talk from the perspective of discourse production. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 1988, 17, 29-63.
Franco, F. Similarities and differences between different types of social partners in adult-infant interaction. Eta' Evolutiva, 1988, 30, 103-113.
Franco, F. Maturation and development: acoustical analysis of communication by cry. Revista de Logopedia, Foniatria y Audiologia (Spain), 1988, VIII/3, 162-172.
Franco, F. Infant cry in the perspective of language development: spectrographic analysis of vocalisations and psychological accounts. In J. Kirkland (Ed.) Cry Reports; Special Issue 1987. Palmerston North, N. Z.: Massey University Press, 1988 (pp. 10-16).
Franco, F., & D'Odorico, L. Context-discourse matching in Baby Talk. In M. Bertuccelli Papi and J. Verschueren (Eds.) The pragmatic perspective. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1987 (pp. 213-228).
Franco, F., Memory in infancy: precursors, prerequisites, or early memory organisations? Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1987, XIV/4, 563-576.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Interactional context and Baby Talk: A comparison between mothers and fathers. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 1986, 2, 253-273.
D'Odorico, L., Franco, F., & Vidotto, G. Temporal characteristics in infant cry and non-cry vocalisations. Language and Speech, 1985, 28, 29-46.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. The determinants of Baby Talk: Relationship to context. Journal of Child Language, 1985, 12, 567-586.
Franco, F., & Gobbo, C. Analysis of exploratory behaviour in mother-infant interaction. Eta' Evolutiva, 1985, 20, 13-24.
Franco, F. Differences in manner of phonation of infant cries: relationship to communicative context. Language and Speech, 1984, 27, 59-78.
Franco, F. Non-segmental aspects of the acoustical differentiation of cry and non-cry vocalisations in the first year of life. Acta Phoniatrica Latina, 1984, V/3, 197-202.
D'Odorico, L., & Franco, F. Communicative development of crying in the first year of life. Eta' Evolutiva, 1984, 19, 11-21.
Franco, F. Functions and characteristics of crying in the first year of life. A critical review of the literature. Eta' Evolutiva, 1984, 19, 105-118.
Franco, F. The development of research on the diagnostic use of spectrographic analysis of infant cry. Methodological problems and suggestions for a normative study. Psicologia Clinica, 1983, 2, 221-245.
Franco, F. Jerome Bruner's contribution to the study of language development. Archivio di Psicologia Neurologia e Psichiatria, 1983, 1, 44-67.
Papadimitriou, Aspasia and Smythe, Catherine and Politimou, Nina and Franco, Fabia and Stewart, Lauren (2021) The impact of the home musical environment on infants' language development. Infant Behavior and Development , 65 . ISSN 0163-6383
Chifa, Maria and Hadar, Tamar and Politimou, Nina and Reynolds, Gemma and Franco, Fabia (2021) The soundscape of neonatal intensive care: a mixed-methods study of the parents’ experience. Children , 8 (8). pp. 1-24. ISSN 2227-9067
Mangiacotti, Anthony and Franco, Fabia and Hsu, Ming Hung and Biasutti, Michele (2021) Evaluating a continuing professional development course on cognitive functions for Music Therapists working in care homes. The Arts in Psychotherapy , 74 . ISSN 0197-4556
Franco, Fabia and Suttora, Chiara and Spinelli, Maria and Kozar, Iryna and Fasolo, Mirco (2021) Singing to infants matters: early singing interactions affect musical preferences and facilitate vocabulary building. Journal of Child Language . pp. 1-26. ISSN 0305-0009 (Published online first)
Politimou, Nina and Douglass-Kirk, Pedro and Pearce, Marcus and Stewart, Lauren and Franco, Fabia (2021) Melodic expectations in 5- to 6-year-old children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology , 203 . ISSN 0022-0965
DUNHILL MEDICAL TRUST (PI), MusiCare - Protecting Cognitive Functions and Wellbeing Using Music Therapy & Innovative Technology with an Aging Population, with A. Mangiacotti (Researcher), and co-investigators M. Biasutti (Padua), E. Chinellato (Middlesex), G. Di Liberto (ENS, Paris), G. Gabai (Padua), M. H. Hsu (MHA), M. Van Puyvelde (Brussels), E. Ward (Middlesex), and one PhD student to be appointed (3-year project). Awarded 2020.
SEMPRE (CO-I), The home musical environment and the roots of language acquisition in infancy: a facilitative relationship? with N. Politimou (Middlesex) L. Stewart (Goldsmith’s). Buck Award 2018.
SEMPRE (PI), Musilanguage in the cradle of cultures: An interdisciplinary workshop. Middlesex University London (£ 950), 18th October 2018.
SEMPRE (PI): The Music Cognitive Test, with A. Mangiacotti and E. Ward (Middlesex). Arnold Bentley Fund, awarded 2018.
MHA (Methodist Homes Association), Evaluation of music therapy benefits on cognitive function in the elderly: A longitudinal RCT study, Co-I with A. Mangiacotti. Awarded 2018.
SEMPRE (PI), Do musical training and practice support reading? a study of professional ballet dancers and musicians, with N. Brunswick (Middlesex, Psychology), C. Bialic-Murphy (named RA) and the Royal Ballet. Arnold Bentley Fund, awarded 2017.
BRITISH ACADEMY SGS (PI): Emotional meaning of musical consonance and dissonance in cross-modal nonverbal tasks, with F. Bravo (Dresden), M. Mazza (L’Aquila, Italy), and M. Van Puyvelde (Brussels). Awarded 2017.
SEMPRE (PI): Do musical training and practice support reading? A study of professional dancers and musicians, with Nicola Brunswick and Coulisse Bialic-Murphy (Middlesex University, Psychology). The Arnold Bentley Fund, awarded 2017.
AIRS (Advancing Interdisciplinary Research on Singing), Mapping the music of 2-4 year olds with LENA, with Lauren Stewart (Goldsmiths', Psychology) and Graham Welch (UCL Institute of Education). Awarded 2015.
SEMPRE (PI): Do M'bendjele (BaYaka) Pygmies recognise communicative intent in Western infant-directed songs? Another look at music and universality, with Jerome Lewis (Anthropology, University College London, UK) and Simone Falk (Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich and LPL Aix-Marseille University, France). The Arnold Bentley Fund, 2014/2016.
MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY GRANT (PI), Reading abilities and music: The role of different types of expertise, with N. Brunswick, L. Kiakides and A. Evans - May/July 2013.
SENSE, Joint attention and communication development in deaf-blind infants and young children, with Maria Nunez (PI, Glasgow Caledonian University) and Sue Leekam (Cardiff University). Awarded 2011.
NUFFIELD FOUNDATION SGS (PI): Young children recognition of emotion in the human voice, with Jana Martiskova (RA). Awarded 2011.
DFG (PAntrag im Programm „Initiierung und Intensivierung bilateraler Kooperationen" der DFG, Deutschland – Großbritannien), The intertwining of Speech and Song: Is there a relationship between perceptive and interactional aspects of parental singing and language development? With Simone Falk (PI, LMU Munich). Awarded 2011.
BRITISH ACADEMY SGS (PI): "If you are happy and you know it ....": Can preschoolers recognise emotion in music? With Marcia Chew (RA), and Joel Swaine (Cambridge University, Centre for Music & Science). Awarded 2010.
SEMPRE (PI): Speech and music tone processing in function of musical and language background (tonal v non-tonal), with Martin Rohrmeier (Cambridge University Centre for Music and Science / Berlin FU) and Marcia Chew (RA). The Arnold Bentley Fund, awarded 2010.
BPS (British Psychological Society) (PI): Research Seminars Competition to organize The music of language, the language of music - three international symposia January 2010 / September 2011.
TCCE Arts and Wellbeing, presentation: “MIRIAM: a new project on Musical Intervention with Refugee Infants and Mothers”. London, April 2019.
Buckingham University Medical School, conducted a 3-hr workshop with Anthony Mangiacotti on Music interventions to support cognitive function - protecting an aging population. Buckingham, June 2019.
Last Tango with the ‘Mozart effect’. Research talk at the Royal College of Music, Centre for Performing Science. London January 19.
Keynote at the “An evening with…” event on language development and delay attended by 120 early years practitioners, organized by Windhill & Little Squirrels Children’s Centres at Stort Valley & Villages Children's Centre Group. The Rhodes Centre, Bishop Stortford, May 2018.
Musilanguage in the cradle. Research talk at Queen’s University, Department of Psychology. Belfast March 2017.
In the conference Why sing? The evolution of singing (Series Musical Brain: I), London 28/04/2017, extracts of my infant research were integrated in the performance of The Ascent of Song (E. Wickham & C. Fox), Origin: Sequence 1: Laments and Lullabies.
University of Cambridge, talk at the Centre for Music and Science (February 2016) http://talks.cam.ac.uk/talk/index/63259
Wolfson College (Cambridge), talk for the Science Society Seminars (June 2016) http://talks.cam.ac.uk/show/archive/26320
I presented a new experiment with my then PhD student Politimou at the Cambridge Science Festival (March 2016) (http://www.sciencefestival.cam.ac.uk/events/mind-behind-music).
I have contributed mother-infant materials mentioned with my research in the "Descent of Language" programme on BBC Radio 3, 27/09/2015 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06b8q6y)