New Study Shows How Rhythm Affects The Brain

Some people are just better at recognizing rhythm than others
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Harrison Williams
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Some people are just better at recognizing rhythm than others

Have you ever wondered how some people just don't like music? Or maybe you think about how select individuals simply lack the capacity for rhythm. For those addicted to sound like I am, it baffles me how some people just don't experience the same love for music as others. 

In a new study conducted by NYU, researches have located rhythms in the brain that allow us to process rhythms in music. The study suggests that musical training can enhance the function of the brain's rhythms. 

“We’ve isolated the rhythms in the brain that match rhythms in music,” explains the lead author of the story Keith Doelling, an NYU Ph.D. student. “Specifically, our findings show that the presence of these rhythms enhances our perception of music and of pitch changes.”

It seems like this means that we can train our brains to better comprehend rhythms in music. What this also points out is musicians are more likely better at this than others.

“What this shows is we can be trained, in effect, to make more efficient use of our auditory-detection systems,” states David Poeppel, co-author of the study and a professor at NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and director of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt. “Musicians, through their experience, are simply better at this type of processing.”

To conduct the study, researchers used magnetoencephalography, which is a way to measure magnetic fields generated by the brain. Participants in the study were asked to point out pitch distortions while listening to 13-second clips of music by composers like Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Both musicians and non-musicians were used in the study to get a spectrum of data. They found that non-musicians were more focused on individual notes rather than a full melody while musicians were able to recognize full musical rhythms. 

So what does all this means? It pretty much shows evidence that some people are just more capable of comprehending music than others. Being able to focus on rhythm is a skill that people learn over time and some have more of a capacity to recognize it. So next time you're listening to a weird and experimental track and you just quite "don't get it", don't be alarmed, it might mean that your brain doesn't recognize the rhythm in the same way as the producer. Food for thought.

[via New York University]