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New Study Analyzes How Our Brain Recognizes Rhythm

A New NYU (New York University) research study that was posted last week examines an interesting topic: how our brain processes rhythm. The study was supported from grants by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Keith Doelling, an NYU Ph.D. student and main author of this study explained the process:

“We’ve isolated the rhythms in the brain that match rhythms in music. Specifically, our findings show that the presence of these rhythms enhances our perception of music and of pitch changes.”

NYU's team made three experiments that made subjects “detect” short pitch distortions in 13-second clips from classical piano music from the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms. The clips often varied in tempo from just half a note to eight notes per second.

As suspected, the subjects who had more than six years of musical training were able to recognize rhythms “better.” The research involved the use of magnetoencephalography, which involves the tiny magnetic fields created by brain activity and recording their measurements.

For rhythms faster than one note per second, the results for subjects who were musicians versus non-musicians were more similar.

David Poeppel was a collaborator and co-author on this study – he's a professor at NYU in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science. He explained what this study achieved:

“What this shows is we can be trained, in effect, to make more efficient use of our auditory-detection systems,” Poeppel said.

It's very important to note that the study does not fully encompass the study of how these brain rhythms and oscillations effect our processing of more “complex” sounds like songs or music in general.

Read the full story from NYU here called “Researchers Find Neurological Notes That  Help Identify How We Process Music.”

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Photo: Joseph D'Oria Photography

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