Seminar Series

Neuroscientific investigations of musical rhythm processing

Moving to musical rhythm is an instinctive, often involuntary activity. Even very young children move to the beat without any special musical training, but how does the brain produce this behaviour? In this talk I will describe how perception of musical rhythms activates a network of cortical and subcortical motor areas, even when no movement is made. I will present converging evidence from fMRI studies of musicians and non-musicians and neuropsychological studies of patients with Parkinson’s disease demonstrating that the basal ganglia play a special role in beat perception. I will also discuss how internal generation of the beat and external markers of the beat differentially modulate activity and functional connectivity among the basal ganglia, auditory cortex, and cortical premotor areas. Finally, I will illustrate the behavioural and neural consequences of cross-modal context; i.e., how hearing a rhythm influences both subsequent visual rhythm perception and basal ganglia activity, and discuss some possible implications for therapy in movement disorders.