Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rhythm cognition in humans vs monkeys explained?

This week a theoretical paper will come out in Frontiers in Neuroscience that reviews the literature on rhythm and timing in humans and nonhuman primates observing different species to species behavior in interval-based timing versus beat-based timing.

In this paper we propose the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis as an alternative to the vocal learning hypothesis (Patel, 2006) that was recently challenged as a pre-condition to beat perception and rhythmic entrainment (see earlier blogs on rhythmic entrainment in, e.g., chimpansees and sea lions).

The gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis (Merchant & Honing, 2014; Honing & Merchant, in press) accommodates the fact that nonhuman primates (i.e. macaques) performance is comparable to humans in single interval tasks (such as interval reproduction, categorization, and interception), but show differences in multiple interval tasks (such as rhythmic entrainment, synchronization and continuation). Furthermore, it is in line with the observation that macaques can, apparently, synchronize in the visual domain, but show less sensitivity in the auditory domain.  And finally, while macaques are sensitive to interval-based timing and rhythmic grouping, the absence of a strong coupling between the auditory and motor system of nonhuman primates might be the reason why macaques cannot rhythmically entrain in the way humans do.

Dorsal auditory stream (light blue) and mCBGT in primates (from: Merchant & Honing, 2013).

Functional imaging studies in humans have revealed that the motor cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuit (mCBGT; see Figure) is involved not only on sequential and temporal processing, but also on rhythmic behaviors such as music and dance, where the auditory modality plays a critical role. However, the mCBGT circuit seems to be less engaged in audiomotor integration in monkeys as opposed to humans. While in humans different cognitive mechanisms can be shown to be active for interval-based timing versus beat-based timing, with beat perception being dependent on distinct parts of the timing network in the brain, the anterior prefrontal CBGT and the mCBGT circuits in monkeys might be less viable to multiple interval structures, such as a regular beat.

ResearchBlogging.orgMerchant, H., & Honing, H. (2014). Are non-human primates capable of rhythmic entrainment? Evidence for the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7 (274) 1-8. doi 10.3389/fnins.2013.00274 (Pre-Print).

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., & Merchant, H. (in press). Differences in auditory timing between human and non-human primates. Behavioral and Brain Science.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wat maakt ons muzikale dieren? [Dutch]

Dit essay beschrijft een recentelijk ingezette zoektocht over de vraag wat ons muzikale dieren maakt. Wat is er te zeggen over de oorsprong van muziek en muzikaliteit vanuit een biologisch en evolutionair perspectief? Hoe is muziek ontstaan? Is muziek uniek voor mensen, zoals taal dat lijkt te zijn? En zo niet, welke muzikale vaardigheden delen we dan met andere primaten? Het antwoord op deze vragen zal nog veel onderzoek vergen.

Deze voorpublicatie, van een boek dat naar verwachting zal verschijnen in de winter van 2014 bij Nieuw Amsterdam, is een verslag van de eerste stappen die onze onderzoeksgroep zet op dit grotendeels onontgonnen onderzoeksterrein.

ResearchBlogging.org Honing, H. (2013). Op zoek naar wat ons muzikale dieren maakt. Gratis download via iTunes (iPad only).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Zorgen muzieklessen voor betere Cito-score? [Dutch]


'Van zingen krijg je een fijn gevoel'
Vandaag verscheen er een reportage in NRC Handelsblad / NRC Next met de titel Van zingen krijg je een fijn gevoel over de kinderen van de Kathedrale Koorschool in Utrecht die, volgens een onderzoek van Jaap Dronkers in opdracht van RTL, uitzonderlijk hoog scoorde op de landelijke Cito toets. Zou dat komen omdat op die school muziek een prominente plaats inneemt?

Het is een aantrekkelijke gedachte, en niet alleen voor degenen die het muziekonderwijs een warm hart toedragen. Lekker muziek maken en dan, als een soort bonus, ook nog eens hogere cijfers! Het is een gedachte die al vaker is aangevoerd om het belang van het muziekonderwijs te verdedigen in tijden van bezuinigingen. Dit alles onder het motto: muziek maakt je slimmer!

Het is echter maar de vraag of dat zo is. En als dat zo is, waardoor dat komt. (N.B. Met het mogelijke feit dat 'muziek slimmer maakt' het belang van muziek aantonen, en niet met een intrinsieke eigenschap van muziek zelf, is natuurlijk curieus. Maar daarover een andere keer meer.)

Fragment uit NRC van 23 december 2013.
Er is een rijke literatuur van muziekpedagogische teksten die de positieve invloed van muziek op het (andere) onderwijs tot waarheid promoveert – denk bijvoorbeeld aan Musik(erziehung) und ihre Wirkung van Hans Günther Bastian. Wederom, het is een sympathieke gedachte, maar is er ook wetenschappelijk onderbouwing voor te vinden?

Er leeft bij veel muziekpedagogen de begrijpelijke en ten dele terechte overtuiging dat je van muziek maken veel opsteekt, en niet alleen direct (near transfer) i.e. op de muziekvaardigheden zelf, maar ook indirect (far transfer): sociale en cognitieve vaardigheden — zoals geheugen, IQ, concentratie en scores voor vakken als lezen, schrijven en rekenen —, zouden er aanzienlijk door verbeteren. Voor dat laatste is echter nog maar weinig onderbouwing te vinden. Of preciezer gezegd: de beschikbare onderzoeksresultaten zijn alles behalve eenduidig.

Artur Jaschke et al. (2013) vergeleken onlangs een groot aantal representatieve studies met de conclusie dat voor veel zaken (zoals lezen, schrijven, rekenen) de wetenschappelijke uitkomsten vaak zover uiteen lopen dat er geen eenduidige conclusie te trekken is. Dit lijkt meestal veroorzaakt te worden door de gebruikte methode en relatief kleine schaal waarop de studies zijn uitgevoerd.

Een uitzondering is een Canadese studie (Schellenberg, 2004) waarin 150 6-jarige kinderen een jaar lang kunstonderwijs (muziek of toneel) werd aangeboden en vergeleken met een controle groep (o.a. gematched wat betreft opleiding en inkomen van de ouders) die het pas een jaar later aangeboden kreeg. Door het ontwerp van de studie (o.a. met gerandomiseerde toekenning aan groepen) kon het beter scoren op een IQ-test na een jaar muziekles verklaart worden als zijnde veroorzaakt door de muziekles. 

Prachtig onderzoek, maar door de gebruikte methode en de schaal waarop het moet worden uitgevoerd nogal kostbaar, en wellicht daarom maar weinig gedaan. We lijken niet alleen muziek een luxe te vinden, het begrijpen ervan ook.

ResearchBlogging.orgJaschke, A. C. et al. (2013) Music education and its effect on intellectual abilities in children: a systematic review. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 24, 6, 665–675. [een pre-print is hier te vinden]

ResearchBlogging.orgSchellenberg, E. G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological Science, 15 (8), 511-4 PMID: 15270994

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waarom blijft dat liedje in je hoofd hangen? [Dutch]

Waaraan herken je dat bekende nummer onmiddellijk? Waarom blijft het ene muziekfragment in je hoofd hangen en het andere niet? Om dat te achterhalen ontwikkelden onderzoekers van de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Universiteit Utrecht en het Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid ‘Hooked!’, een game voor de iPhone en andere iOS apparaten met muziek uit de Radio 2 Top 2000 (voor de wetenschap achter Hooked!, zie Burgoyne et al., 2013). De game is vanaf vandaag gratis te downloaden in de iTunes App store voor iedereen met een Spotify Premium Account. 

Voor meer informatie zie de Hooked! website.



‘Hooked!’, een game voor de iPhone en andere iOS apparaten.


ResearchBlogging.orgJ.A. Burgoyne et al. (2013). Hooked: A game for discovering what makes music catchy. Proceedings ISMIR.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Do you know this song?

What makes music catchy? Why do some pieces of music come right back to you even if you haven’t heard them in years, while you forget others almost immediately? Hooked! is designed by researchers of University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University to answer these questions (Burgoyne et al., 2013). The game tests how quickly different parts of a song trigger your memory, and with data from thousands of players, the researchers will be able to see what the catchiest hooks of all time have been and what they have in common. The more you play, the more you contribute to science!

A free version of Hooked! can now be downloaded at iTunes.
More information of the research can be found here.
More information on the game can be found here.

ResearchBlogging.orgJ.A. Burgoyne et al. (2013). Hooked: A game for discovering what makes music catchy. Proceedings ISMIR.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Maakt muziek slimmer? [Dutch]

Henkjan Honing (UvA) en Marc Leman (UGent) gaven 9 oktober j.l. een lezing in de Handelsbeurs van Gent en gingen daarna met Eos-redacteur Reinout Verbeke in gesprek.

Voor meer fragmenten zie YouTube.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Can we borrow your ears?

Fleur Bouwer, from the Music Cognition Group at the University of Amsterdam, traveled to Canada a few weeks ago to start-up an ambitious experiment on rhythm perception in collaboration with the group of Jessica Grahn, the Music Neuroscience Lab at Western University in London, Ontario. In preparation for a larger fMRI study she invites listeners to join an online pilot study. Interested?

The study involves listening to and rating rhythms online. The entire study will take up to 1 hour to complete and you can participate at a time and location of your convenience. You can also take the experiment in short blocks and take breaks in between. To participate, you need a computer with an Internet connection and loudspeakers or headphones.

The online experiment can be found at this link.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Brazilian bird singing like Mozart?

About a week ago the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant published an article with the title 'Braziliaanse vogel zingt een lied van het niveau Mozart' ('Brazilian bird sings a song of Mozart-level quality'). Several friends send me links via the social media (Thanks, keep on doing that!) because of my interest in what makes us musical animals. Is this striking new evidence? Or another case of anthropomorphism?

Well, let's first listen to a recording of the bird under discussion: the musician wren (Cyphorhinus arada).



Many studies on the origins of music concern the question of what defines music. Can birdsong be considered music? In trying to answer this question, it is important to separate the notions of ‘music’ and ‘musicality’, with musicality being defined as a natural, spontaneously developing trait based on and constrained by our cognitive system, and music as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality.

However, it is still a challenge to demarcate precisely what makes up this trait we call musicality. What are the cognitive mechanisms that are essential to perceive, make and appreciate music? Only when we have identified these fundamental mechanisms are we in a position to see how these might have evolved. In other words, the study of the evolution of music cognition is conditional on a characterization of the basic mechanisms that make up musicality.

Other studies are concerned with thinking about the question what we share with other animals in terms of musicality. And indeed, no matter how we would like it to be different, we are repeatedly reminded that we have more similarities to nonhuman animals than differences. However, we must be careful in calling birdsong music. We make this mistake more often. We, the human listeners, perceive the sounds made by songbirds as music. Whether these other animals also do that is unclear. And that makes a world of difference.

Musician wren (Cyphorhinus arada)
The study mentioned about a week ago in the Volkskrant was published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, a relatively new online journal promoting collaborations between the humanities and the sciences (N.B. dated Spring 2012).

If you read the paper, you will see that the authors confirm earlier findings that were discussed on this blog as well. For instance, the study that appeared in Animal Behavior (Araya-Salas, 2012) on the song of a nightingale wren, a species belonging to the same family as the musician wren. In that study ecologist Marcelo Araya-Salas (New Mexico State University) shows that the resemblance between a nightingale wren's song and music is nothing more than a coincidence. In the Doolittle & Brumm (2012) study similar results are reported. They also conclude that it is because 'human listeners from a variety of musical cultures are used to hearing these intervals as frames or anchors, we are likely to perceive many passages of musician wren songs not as series of disjunct notes but as musical units.' (Doolittle & Brumm, 2012:80).

Despite the beauty of birdsong, it’s again an example that when we call something music we’re projecting our own biases. Nothing wrong with that at all, but good to realize.

Nevertheless, from a scientific perspective, one way of avoiding this common pitfall is to focus on the actual, far more challenging question: is it music to them? (cf. Honing, 2013). More on that later...

ResearchBlogging.orgDoolittle, E.  & Brumm, H. (2012). O Canto do Uirapuru: Consonant intervals and patterns in the song of the musician wren. Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, 6 (1), 55-85. [online advance publication 15 October 2013]

 ResearchBlogging.orgAraya-Salas, M. (2012). Is birdsong music? Evaluating harmonic intervals in songs of a Neotropical songbird Animal Behaviour, 84 (2), 309-313. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.04.038

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2013). Op zoek naar wat ons muzikale dieren maakt. Free iBook (voorpublicatie).

P.S. In the context of earlier discussions on tuning systems (e.g., see earlier  blog entry): this study suggests that we might actually not be so sensitive to tuning as we might think.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Can't get it out of your head?

Imagine listening to a catchy tune. When do you nod your head and sing along? That's the hook, the most memorable part of the song, crafted by songwriters to stick in your head and exploited by DJs to get people onto the dance floor. Everyone knows a hook when they hear it, but scientists don't know why.

#Hooked was launched this week at Manchester Science Festival and will run until September 2014. During the Festival people can contribute their catchiest songs and stories to build the playlist and scientists will debate the science of what makes music catchy, from hooks, to earworms and hit songs. There will be a silent disco and shows about music with ‘Captain Hooked’ (see website for more details). Nominations for the playlist (which runs across all musical genres) will continue in the run up to the launch of the #Hooked game in early 2014.



#Hooked is an ambitious initiative of Dr Erinma Ochu, funded by a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship. She did an amazing job in bringing lots of people together as well as initiating a series of activities at the Manchester Science Museum around the simple idea of finding out what makes music catchy, an idea with a potential outreach far beyond that of basic music cognition research. The hooked-game will be launched in the Spring of 2014. And, if you can't wait, you can do the Hooked questionaire here or nominate your favorite song here.

Why does this matter? Well, the experiment is all about musical memory and as such might provide insights into long term memory and even failing memory, which could contribute to future Alzheimer's disease research. See video below for further motivation:



Click here to Participate!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Managing your talents?

Keynote by Dan Levitin
On August 29 and 30, 2013 the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam, and VU University will organize the Managing Your Talents conference. This conference makes for a unique gathering of people whose expertise will be called upon to achieve a new standard of educational excellence in the performing arts. It is a must-go for those who are involved with music, dance or theatre, and who seek to share their interest with researchers from a broad range of disciplines, such as performing arts pedagogy, medicine, neuropsychology, brain and cognition sciences, and human motion sciences.

The keynote lecture will be given by Daniel Levitin (professor of psychology and behavioural neuroscience, McGill University, Montréal), Other speakers at this conference include Eckart Altenmüller (music and medicine), Roger Kneebone (surgical education), Erik Scherder (neuropsychology), Susan Hallam (music psychology and education), and Jacques van Rossum (human motion sciences). The participants will also see examples of teaching and training practices at professional art schools.


Roger Kneebone at TEDMEDLive

Updates on the program will follow at intervals this summer, and will be made available at the conference website: Managing Your Talents. 

(Zie Folia voor een aankondiging in het Nederlands.)


Thursday, August 01, 2013

What’s happening in the field music cognition?

The biennial meeting of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC) will be held from 8-11 August 2013 at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. This years edition looks like it will be one of the largest if not the largest meetings of SMPC to date.*

If you want to have a look at the program with four parallel tracks and an impressive poster program, the website now hosts a beautiful designed booklet (by Lisa Liskovoi) with an overview of all the papers and posters that will be presented across four days. Download it here.

If you are interested in a lively report during the conference: Vicky Williamson, who you might remember from her blog at ICMPC12, announced to be the blogger of the SMPC as well. Quite a task! Follow it here.

*The organizers were prompted to put it in precise numbers: "The 191 scheduled talks this year represents roughly double the historical norm of roughly 95 (based on metrics from the past 3 meetings). The posters story is similar– 94 here relative to an average of about 60 previously.  We also have a special symposium on music therapy, which I think will be a great addition, as it will help to strengthen our ties with this important research discipline.  This also explains why we had to go with a 4 track structure and 3 posters sessions, which are a lot based on our historical norms."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Interested in music gaming and software development?

We are looking for a researcher with experience in iOS development who can help us explore the question of 'what makes music catchy?' with an innovative music quiz game. For more information and detailed instructions on how to apply see here. Deadline for applications is 15 August 2013.

ResearchBlogging.orgBurgoyne, J. A., Bountouridis. D., Balen, J. van, & Honing, H. (in press). Hooked: A game for discovering what makes music catchy. Proceedings of ISMIR. Curitiba, Brasil.

Monday, July 15, 2013

In for a discount?

I hope you don't mind that -in the middle of the summer- I do another plug of my book that is about to appear in paperback and offered at 50% discount until Thursday 18 July 2013.

However, from now on, be sure to expect mostly updates on research by colleagues. As a start, below a reference to an intriguing paper by Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson that just came out in Frontiers in Language Sciences on the evolutionary history of language, with a single, yet inspiring paragraph on music.

Dediu, D. & Levinson, S.C.  (2013) On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences. Frontiers in Language Sciences. 4, 397.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's new on music, language and the brain?

From 8-12 May 2011 about forty researchers were asked to join a week of discussions in Frankfurt am Main, Germany in the context of the Ernst Strüngmann Forum.

The Forum can best be imagined as an intellectual retreat. A group of international experts are brought together for a week to identify gaps in knowledge; key questions are posed and innovative ways of filling these gaps are sought. To complete the communication process, the Ernst Strüngmann Forum publishes the results in partnership with MIT Press.

The 2011 Forum explored the relationships between language, music, and the brain by pursuing four key themes and the crosstalk among them: 1) song and dance as a bridge between music and language, 2) multiple levels of structure from brain to behavior to culture, 3) the semantics of internal and external worlds and the role of emotion, and 4) the evolution and development of language.

See more information on the resulting book at MIT Press.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Interested in becoming a student assistant at MCG?

 
The Music Cognition Group (MCG) searches for an enthusiastic and well-organized personal assistant (PA) for the Academic Year 2013/14. For more information and detailed instructions on how to apply see here. Deadline for applications is 01 July 2013.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Does music make you move?

At TEDxWaterloo 2013 Jessica Grahn – a cognitive neuroscientist working at Western University, Canada – presented an engaging talk about why music moves us, and why picking up the beat might make us unique.




And another video just to ilustrate the point:



N.B. See below some of the studies mentioned in the talk.

ResearchBlogging.org Grahn, J., & Brett, M. (2007). Rhythm and Beat Perception in Motor Areas of the Brain Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 (5), 893-906 DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2007.19.5.893

ResearchBlogging.orgPatel, A., Iversen, J., Bregman, M., & Schulz, I. (2009). Experimental Evidence for Synchronization to a Musical Beat in a Nonhuman Animal Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.038

ResearchBlogging.org Zarco, 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

Friday, May 17, 2013

'Vocal mimicry hypothesis' falsified? [Part 2]

Figure (a) Ai tapped C4, (b) Ai tapped C5, (c) Time sequence of a test trial.
A few entries ago I uploaded a fragment from a study (Hattori et al., 2013) that discusses an intriguing experiment with three chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) which were trained to tap regularly on a piano keyboard.

While the video below is convincing, the study reports that only one of the three chimps participating in the experiment was able to do the task: a chimp named Ai (See video).  Furthermore, Ai was only able to synchronize with stimuli at a rate of 600 ms (and not at rates of 400 or 500 ms). In addition, Ai did this in reaction (positive asynchrony) and not in anticipation of the beat (negative asynchrony).

This is similar to what has been found in studies with macaques (Zarco et al., 2009; Konoike et al., 2012) that also seem to opt for a strategy of to react instead of anticipating to a regular beat. All this in contrast with humans that can intentionally synchronize their tapping to various rates (ranging roughly from 200 ms to 1800 ms) of a varying rhythmic stimulus (and not simply a metronome) while showing a negative synchronization error, i.e. in anticipation of the beat.

Another point of a more methodological nature is that the experimentators used, next to sound, what they called 'light navigation' (see diagram above), a visual cue for the chimps to 'remind them' of which key to press. While the authors write "it was unlikely that the visual stimuli affected tapping rhythm by chimpanzees" we can not be sure this is evidence for rhythmic entrainment in the auditory domain.

video

Nevertheless, with behavioral methods that rely on overt motoric responses it is difficult to separate between the contribution of perception and action (beat perception vs beat production). This makes electrophysiological measures (such as event-related potentials) a more direct and hence attractive alternative. The latter method has been shown a worthwhile, non-invasive alternative in studying cognitive and neural processing in primates (see, e.g., Ueno et al., 2009) and it was used recently in a study probing beat perception in macaques (Honing, Merchant et al., 2012).*

And lastly, these and earlier observations have lead to the auditory timing dissociation hypothesis (Honing, Merchant et al., 2012). This hypothesis accommodates the fact that nonhuman primates performance is comparable to humans in single interval tasks (such as interval reproduction, categorization and interception), but differs substantively in multiple interval tasks (such as rhythmic entrainment, synchronization and continuation).

* N.B. We are eager to collaborate with a primate lab that is willing to do such a relatively simple listening experiment using EEG with chimpanzees; Would be great to compare the results we now have for human adults, newborns, and macaques with the perception of Great Apes ! Feel free to email me :-)

ResearchBlogging.orgHattori, Y., Tomonaga, M., & Matsuzawa, T. (2013). Spontaneous synchronized tapping to an auditory rhythm in a chimpanzee. Scientific Reports, 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01566.

ResearchBlogging.org Hasegawa, A., Okanoya, K., Hasegawa, T., & Seki, Y. (2011). Rhythmic synchronization tapping to an audio–visual metronome in budgerigars Scientific Reports, 1 DOI: 10.1038/srep00120

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H., Merchant, H., Háden, G., Prado, L., & Bartolo, R. (2012). Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca mulatta) detect rhythmic groups in music, but not the beat. PLoS ONE, 7 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051369

Thrirty-two metronomes synchronizing?

If you place 32 metronomes on a static object and set them rocking out of phase with one another, they will remain that way indefinitely. Place them on a moveable surface, however, and something very interesting happens (dedicated to Christiaan Huygens):



For more 'variations' see the Ikeguchi Lab, Japan.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are monkeys capable of rhythmic entrainment?

Hugo Merchant Lab
On Friday 24 May 2013  Hugo Merchant (Institute of Neurobiology, Querétaro, Mexico) will give a CSCA Lecture with the title Neurophysiology of temporal and sequential processing during a synchronization-continuation tapping task. He will present a recent study investigating rhythmic entrainment in Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta).

A recent study has shown that Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) are able to spontaneously synchronize their arm movements when they are paired and facing each other, suggesting that monkeys can coordinate their actions in a social setting and establish some level of rhythmic entrainment (Nagasaka et al., 2013; see earlier entry). However, the asynchronies between the pairs of tapping monkeys are positive, largely dependent on the visual input that the other monkey provides, and with little influence on the sounds that the monkeys made when tapping. The question remains of whether more closer human relatives such as the great apes, show a more sophisticated ability for rhythmic entrainment than macaques.

Macaca mulatta
Hugo Merchant will present a recent study in which two monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were trained in a synchronization-continuation tapping paradigm called a synchronization-continuation tapping task (SCT) in which auditory (A) or visual (V) cues were presented to construct the periodic target interval ranging from 0.45 to 1 second. Initially, animals synchronized their arm movements with a sensory cue by tapping on a push-button, followed by self-pacing of the target interval when the metronome was switched-off. In addition, the monkeys performed a single interval reproduction task (SIRT). We recorded the single-cell activity of 1500 neurons from the macaque medial premotor cortex (MPC) during the task performance.

The results suggest that distinct populations of cells in the MPC can encode different temporal and sequential aspects of the SCT and suggest that MPC is part of a core timing network that uses interval tuning as a signal to represent temporal processing in a variety of behavioral contexts where time is explicitly quantified.

Location: room DS.02, REC D, Nieuwe Achtergracht 129 (entrance through REC G, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130), Amsterdam.

Time: 16:00 - 17:00 hrs, followed by informal drinks. Registration is not necessary.

For more information, see the website of the CSCA.

ResearchBlogging.org Nagasaka, Y., Chao, Z., Hasegawa, N., Notoya, T., & Fujii, N. (2013). Spontaneous synchronization of arm motion between Japanese macaques Scientific Reports, 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01151

Friday, May 10, 2013

Interested in a PhD position at the University of Amsterdam?

The Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) currently has two PhD fellowships available at the Faculty of Science starting on 1 September 2013. Applications are invited from excellent candidates wishing to conduct research in an area in which either the Logic and Language group or the Language and Computation group at ILLC are active, such as the computational modeling of human information processing, especially natural language and music (LaCo) and/or foundational issues in mathematics and computer science (LoCo). For more information, see here. Deadline for applications is 12 May 2013.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Was Steven Pinker right after all? [Part 2]

At the end of the 1990s, cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker infamously characterized music as “auditory cheesecake”: a delightful dessert but, from an evolutionary perspective, no more than a by-product of language. But Pinker was probably right when he wrote: “I suspect music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of...our mental faculties.” Or, to express his idea less graphically: music affects our brains at specific places, thereby stimulating the production of unique substances that have a pleasurable effect on our mood. However, rather than a by-product of evolution, music or more precisely musicality is likely to be a characteristic that survived natural selection in order to stimulate and develop our mental faculties (cf. Honing, 2011).

Pinker’s idea may actually be a very fruitful hypothesis whose significance has wrongfully gone unacknowledged because of all the criticism it elicited. After all, the purely evolutionary explanations for the origins of music largely overlook the experience of music we all share: the pleasure we derive from it, not only from the acrobatics of making it but also from the act of listening to it.

Last week Science published a study (a follow-up of Salimpoor et al., 2011) in which Canadian researchers were able to show precisely that: Music can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving, similar to tangible rewards that involve the striatal dopaminergic system. They were able to show that intense pleasure in response to music can lead to dopamine release in the striatal system, most notably the nucleus accumbens. And, more importantly, the anticipation of an abstract reward can result in dopamine release in an anatomical pathway distinct from that associated with the peak pleasure itself.

ResearchBlogging.org Salimpoor, V., van den Bosch, I., Kovacevic, N., McIntosh, A., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. (2013). Interactions Between the Nucleus Accumbens and Auditory Cortices Predict Music Reward Value Science, 340 (6129), 216-219 DOI: 10.1126/science.1231059

ResearchBlogging.orgSalimpoor, V., Benovoy, M., Larcher, K., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. (2011). Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music Nature Neuroscience DOI: 10.1038/nn.2726

ResearchBlogging.orgHoning, H. (2011) Musical Cognition. A Science of Listening. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Interested in the relation between dance and music?

Larry Parsons
On Tuesday 16 April 2013  Larry Parsons (University of Sheffield and Centre de Neuroscience Cognitive, CNRS, Lyon, France) will give a CSCA Lecture with the title Neurobiological Basis of Musical Skills and Dancing. He will present functional neuroimaging data on the brain basis of call/response singing, harmonization, improvisational singing, sight-singing duets, music learning in non-musical adults, and the performance of memorized piano pieces. Also discussed will be the relation between neural systems for melodic and sentential generation, emotional musical experiences, and the brain basis of dancing.

For more information, see the website of the CSCA.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Interested in an Assistant Professorship?

The Faculty of Humanities is searching for two Assistant Professors in Musicology (0.5 fte) in the fields of historical, cognitive or cultural musicology. They should be familiar with recent developments in the methodology of musicology and acquainted with current theoretical developments in their respective field. Experience in musical practice and/or experience with digital media and research tools is desirable.  For more information, see here. Deadline for applications is 17 April 2013.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Hebben dieren vrije tijd? [Dutch]

Tijs Goldschmidt
Op vrijdag 19 april spreekt de schrijver en evolutiebioloog Tijs Goldschmidt de derde Kousbroeklezing uit met de titel Vis in bad. De meeste dieren werken periodiek hard, maar er wordt ook veel gelummeld, gehangen en niets gedaan. Hoe kunnen ze zich dat permitteren? Hebben ze 'vrije tijd' of zijn ze schijnvrij? Een beschouwing over zonnetijd, innerlijke tijd, sociale tijd en vooral vrije tijd bij dieren inclusief de mens.

Tijs Goldschmidt is essayist en bioloog. Zijn bekendste boek is Darwins Hofvijver. Hij publiceerde ook verschillende essaybundels. Hij is advisor aan de Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten en gastschrijver van de UvA-Artisbibliotheek (Bijzondere Collecties). In 2004 was hij een van VPRO's zomergasten.

Zie hier voor meer informatie.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

'Vocal mimicry hypothesis' falsified?

See the video below from Hattori et al. (2013):

video

More later this week on this blog...

ResearchBlogging.orgHattori, Y., Tomonaga, M., & Matsuzawa, T. (2013). Spontaneous synchronized tapping to an auditory rhythm in a chimpanzee. Scientific Reports, 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01566.

Confirmation of vocal learning hypothesis instead of falsification?

It was recently shown that rhythmic entrainment, long considered a human-specific mechanism, can be demonstrated in a select group of bird species, and, somewhat surprisingly, not in more closely related species such as nonhuman primates. This observation supports the vocal learning and synchronization hypothesis (Patel, 2006) that suggests that rhythmic entrainment is a by-product of the vocal learning mechanisms that are shared by several bird and mammal species, including humans, but that are only weakly developed, or missing entirely, in nonhuman primates. However, since no evidence of rhythmic entrainment was found in many vocal learners (including dolphins, seals, and songbirds), vocal learning may be necessary, but not sufficient for beat induction – the cognitive mechanism that supports the perception of a regular pulse from a varying rhythm.



Nevertheless, on April Fool's Day another piece of evidence – according to the authors falsifying the above mentioned hypothesis – was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology reporting on a sea lion (Zalophus californianus) that was able to learn to entrain to the beat of music (Think of Everybody of the Backstreet Boys and Boogie Wonderland of Earth, Wind and Fire).

I have to admit that my library does not have access to the journal, so I have not been able to read the full paper as yet. But the video (included above) mentions a peculiar detail: the authors claim Sea Lions not to be vocal learners, and hence to have 'falsified' the above mentioned vocal learning and synchronization hypothesis. However, in how far pinnipeds have some level of vocal mimicking capabilities is still unclear. This combined with the fact that 'absence of evidence is no evidence of absence' (cf. Fitch [and comments below]), it seems again too early to tell...

ResearchBlogging.orgCook, P., Rouse, A., Wilson, M., & Reichmuth, C. (2013). A California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) Can Keep the Beat: Motor Entrainment to Rhythmic Auditory Stimuli in a Non Vocal Mimic. Journal of Comparative Psychology DOI: 10.1037/a0032345

ResearchBlogging.orgArnason, U., Gullberg, A., Janke, A., Kullberg, M., Lehman, N., Petrov, E., & Väinölä, R. (2006). Pinniped phylogeny and a new hypothesis for their origin and dispersal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 41 (2), 345-354 DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2006.05.022