Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

Fusing the sight and sound of swing-groove in the brains of drummers

Merging audio and visual signals into a unitary event is essential for interpreting the actions around us. We examined how experience influences this process by using both behavioural and brain imaging (fMRI) techniques. Our studies present audio and visual streams and compare the ability of drummers and control participants to detect mismatches in the synchrony or congruence of these information streams. All studies employed a novel means of transforming motion capture data of swing groove drumming into visual point-light displays and corresponding sounds generated from physical simulation. Behavioural results showed that drummers, are more narrowly tuned to detect timing differences between the audio and visual signals, and show robust performance across variations in tempo, occlusion and image rotation. Brain imaging results showed both patterns of reduced activity for drummers when viewing synchronous displays and different brain networks involved in detecting synchrony and congruence.