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From random to regular: Neural constraints on the emergence of isochronous rhythm during cultural transmission

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A core design feature of human communication systems and expressive behaviours is their temporal organization. The cultural evolutionary origins of this feature remain unclear. Here, we test the hypothesis that regularities in the temporal organization of signalling sequences arise in the course of cultural transmission as adaptations to aspects of cortical function. We conducted two experiments on the transmission of rhythms associated to affective meanings, focusing on one of the most widespread forms of regularity in language and music: isochronicity. In the first experiment, we investigated how isochronous rhythmic regularities emerge and change in multi-generational signalling games, where the receiver (learner) in a game becomes the sender (transmitter) in the next game. We show that signalling sequences tend to become rhythmically more isochronous as they are transmitted across generations. In the second experiment, we combined EEG and two-player signalling games over two successive days. We show that rhythmic regularization of sequences can be predicted based on the latencies of the MMN response in a temporal oddball paradigm. These results suggest that forms of isochronicity in communication systems originate in neural constraints on information processing, which may be expressed and amplified in the course of cultural transmission.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Pages (from-to)877-888
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018

    Research areas

  • Cultural transmission, MMN, isochronicity, neural predictors, signalling games

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