Music makes us move, and using bass instruments to build the rhythmic foundations of music is especially effective at inducing people to dance to periodic pulse-like beats. Here, we show that this culturally widespread practice may exploit a neurophysiological mechanism whereby low-frequency sounds shape the neural representations of rhythmic input by boosting selective locking to the beat. Cortical activity was captured using electroencephalography (EEG) while participants listened to a regular rhythm or to a relatively complex syncopated rhythm conveyed either by low tones (130 Hz) or high tones (1236.8 Hz). We found that cortical activity at the frequency of the perceived beat is selectively enhanced compared with other frequencies in the EEG spectrum when rhythms are conveyed by bass sounds. This effect is unlikely to arise from early cochlear processes, as revealed by auditory physiological modeling, and was particularly pronounced for the complex rhythm requiring endogenous generation of the beat. The effect is likewise not attributable to differences in perceived loudness between low and high tones, as a control experiment manipulating sound intensity alone did not yield similar results. Finally, the privileged role of bass sounds is contingent on allocation of attentional resources to the temporal properties of the stimulus, as revealed by a further control experiment examining the role of a behavioral task. Together, our results provide a neurobiological basis for the convention of using bass instruments to carry the rhythmic foundations of music and to drive people to move to the beat.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Brain tracking of musical beat is enhanced by low frequency sounds.
Lenc et al. find that that brain activity at the frequency of the perceived beat is selectively enhanced compared with other frequencies in the electroencephalogram (EEG) spectrum when rhythms are conveyed by bass sounds, explaining why across cultures bass instruments are used to induce people to dance to periodic pulse-like beats.