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Groove on the Brain

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A unique feature of music is its potential to make us want to move our feet and bodies to the rhythm of the musical beat. Even though the ability to synchronize our movements to music feels as a completely natural music-related behavior to most humans (but see [1, 2] for rare cases of so-called beat-deafness in humans) this ability is rarely observed in animals [3], and usually depends on specific training regimes [4]. Our brains structure the musical beat into strong and weak beats even without any such information present in the auditory stimulus [5]. Furthermore, the tendency to move to a regular beat, with isochronous intervals, may persist even if the music that we listen to emphasizes musical events that lies between these beats as for syncopated rhythms [6] or in the case of polyrhythm [7, 8]. This indicates a cognitive discrepancy between what is heard – the rhythm - and the brain’s internal structuring of the beat – which in musicology is termed the meter. In the present paper, I shall argue that this discrepancy: (1) is related to prediction as a fundamental principle of brain processing, (2) gives rise to prediction error between lower - possibly sensory - and higher levels – possibly motor networks - in the hierarchical organized brain, and that (3) perception, learning and our inclination to move to the beat depends on the right balance between predictability and surprise. This predictive coding understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in movement related musical behavior may help us understand brain processes related to aesthetic experiences in general and in designing strategies for clinical intervention for patients with movement disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic Technology with Swing - 13th International Symposium, CMMR 2017, Revised Selected Papers
EditorsMatthew E.P. Davies, Mitsuko Aramaki, Richard Kronland-Martinet, Sølvi Ystad
Number of pages10
Publication year1 Jan 2018
ISBN (print)9783030016913
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Event13th international Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research, CMMR 2017 - Matosinhos, Portugal
Duration: 25 Sept 201728 Sept 2017


Conference13th international Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research, CMMR 2017
SeriesLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11265 LNCS

    Research areas

  • Groove, Neuroscience, Predictive coding

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