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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Perspectives on Rhythm Processing In Motor Regions of the Brain

Jessica A Grahn and Sarah L Watson (2013)

Perspectives on Rhythm Processing In Motor Regions of the Brain

Music Therapy Perspectives, 31:25-30.

From established musicians to musically untrained children, music seems to have a universal, automatic impact on the movement of the human body. Sensing a beat in rhythm may compel some individuals to move. Through neuroimaging techniques and investigation of neurological patient groups, researchers have discovered that several movement areas of the brain respond to rhythms, whether regular, musical rhythms or irregular rhythms. In addition, a specific response to rhythms with a beat is routinely observed in the basal ganglia, a crucial set of brain structures for movement control. These new findings about the brain’s response to rhythm have led researchers to investigate the possible mechanisms through which music may affect movement. Beat-based rhythms may increase activity in the basal ganglia and consequently improve basal ganglia function in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Alternatively, it is possible that other, intact, brain regions may compensate for impaired function. Although much research remains to be done, current findings about how rhythm relates to the control of movement may have implications for therapeutic approaches to rehabilitation.

beat perception, parkinson's disease, rhythm, motor