Neuroscientists Explore How People Synchronize Their Actions to Sounds

Neuroscientists recently conducted a study to explore and find out why many people can synchronize their actions and movements to sounds, while some cannot. The study sheds light on why not everyone can dance to the beat of the music; or why team functions in competitive kayaking include drummers onboard.

Neuroscience researchers from McGill University led by Professor Caroline Palmer of the Department of Psychology, conducted a study to find out how auditory perception and motor processes work hand in hand to create synchronized responses. The report was recently published by the McGill University research team in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

McGill Study Discovered Neural Markers Enabling Synchronization

According to Professor Palmer, they were able to recognize neural markers among musically inclined people in relation to beat recognition. While at first they presumed that said markers would relate to the musician’s ability to hear or create a beat, they discovered that the markers were linked with the musicians ability to synchronize their actions with the beat.

While conducting the study, Professor Palmer hypothesized that some individuals are possibly better musicians than others, because they listen differently to music or because their body responds differently to music. To support the results of their study with evidence, the research team used electroencephalography or EEGs. This denotes that electrodes were placed on the scalp of different musicians as a means of measuring their respective brain activities.

The study uncovered the relationship between the vibrations of the brain rhythms and the pulsing beat of musical rhythms, to which the auditory rhythm serves as the link or connection. Study co-authors Brian Mathias and Anna Zamm, commented that based on what was reflected on the EEGs, they unexpectedly discovered that even professional musicians sometimes manifest decreased ability to sync with complicated rhythms.

While most musicians are usually good at synchronizing with the tempo, the EEG signals were able to differentiate who are “good”, “better”, or even who can be called “super-synchronizers” Still, Professor Palmer said that it is yet to be proven if anyone can become a super-synchronizer, although it is highly feasible that people can get better at synchronizing actions or movements with beats.

 

After all, only 2-3% of the population are known to be beat-deaf, and for that matter, becoming a good drummer still depends on innate talent combined with lots of hard work. Practice as they say “makes perfect” and it remains as the most recommended approach to improving one’s skill at synchronization.