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You are here: McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind > Publications > Feeling the beat: premotor and striatal interactions in musicians and non-musicians during beat perception

Jessica A Grahn and James B Rowe (2009)

Feeling the beat: premotor and striatal interactions in musicians and non-musicians during beat perception

Journal of Neuroscience, 29(23):7540-7548.

Little is known about the underlying neurobiology of rhythm and beat perception, despite its universal cultural importance. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study rhythm perception in musicians and non-musicians. Three conditions varied in the degree to which external reinforcement versus internal generation of the beat was required. The ‘Volume’ condition strongly externally marked the beat with volume changes, the ‘Duration’ condition marked the beat with weaker accents arising from duration changes, and the ‘Unaccented’ condition required the beat to be entirely internally generated. In all conditions, beat rhythms compared to nonbeat control rhythms revealed putamen activity. The presence of a beat was also associated with greater connectivity between the putamen and the supplementary motor area (SMA), the premotor cortex (PMC) and auditory cortex. In contrast, the type of accent within the beat conditions modulated the coupling between premotor and auditory cortex, with greater modulation for musicians than non-musicians. Importantly, the putamen's response to beat conditions was not due to differences in temporal complexity between the three rhythm conditions. We propose that a cortico-subcortical network including the putamen, SMA, and PMC is engaged for the analysis of temporal sequences and prediction or generation of putative beats, especially under conditions that may require internal generation of the beat. The importance of this system for auditory-motor interaction and development of precisely timed movement is suggested here by its facilitation in musicians.

fMRI, beat perception, rhythm, timing, basal ganglia