Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Is beat induction species-specific? [Part 1]

Beat induction (BI) is the cognitive skill that allows us to hear a regular pulse in music to which we can then synchronize. Perceiving this regularity in music allows us to dance and make music together. As such it can be considered a fundamental musical trait that, arguably, played a decisive role in the origin of music (see also earlier entries of this blog). Furthermore, BI has been argued to be a spontaneously developing, domain-specific and species-specific skill.

With regard to the first aspect, recent studies with infants and newborns provide some evidence suggesting such early bias (Honing et al., 2009). With regard to the second aspect convincing evidence is still lacking, although it was recently argued that BI does not play a role (or is even avoided) in spoken language (Patel, 2008). And with regard to the latter aspect, it was recently suggested that we might share BI with a selected group of bird species (Fitch, 2009) and not with more closely related species such as nonhuman primates.(Zarco et al., 2009). This is surprising when one assumes a close mapping between specific genotypes and specific cognitive traits. However, more and more studies show that genetically distantly related species can show similar cognitive skill, and this offers a rich basis for comparative studies of this specific cognitive function.

Most animal studies have used behavioral methods to probe the presence (or absence) of BI, such as tapping tasks or measuring head bobs. It might well be that if more direct electrophysiological measures are used (such as analogs of the MMN), nonhuman primates might indeed also show BI.

Its this hypothesis that that is the topic of a new and exiting collaboration of our group with that of Hugo Merchant at the Institute of Neurobiology in Querétaro, Mexico. This week we started a series of experiments with Rhesus Macaques using the same paradigm we used in our earlier newborn studies.

ResearchBlogging.orgFitch, W. (2009). Biology of Music: Another One Bites the Dust Current Biology, 19 (10) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.04.004

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning H, Ladinig O, Háden GP, & Winkler I (2009). Is beat induction innate or learned? Probing emergent meter perception in adults and newborns using event-related brain potentials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169, 93-6 PMID: 19673760

ResearchBlogging.orgPatel, A. D. (2008). Music, language, and the brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

ResearchBlogging.orgZarco, W., Merchant, H., Prado, L., & Mendez, J. (2009). Subsecond Timing in Primates: Comparison of Interval Production Between Human Subjects and Rhesus Monkeys Journal of Neurophysiology, 102 (6), 3191-3202 DOI: 10.1152/jn.00066.2009

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