Have you ever been at a show and realized that the people around you were dancing to the synth line instead of the beat pattern?

According to a study published in Scientific Reports, there may be a reason why some people have trouble staying on beat. One’s ability to accurately hold and predict rhythm may have to do with the strength of an individuals neural entrainment. Meaning, that some people have a better natural ability to recognize and synchronize movements with musical rhythms.

In order to determine this link, researchers conducted several experiments to measure individual response to auditory rhythm. To do this, volunteers were asked to perform exercises where they were asked to tap to a specific beat and tempo. The volunteers were tested for their ability to recognize distinct, un-syncopated rhythm.

Next, volunteers were asked to recognize and tap their fingers to a syncopated beat, which required the volunteers to be able to predict the beat. Because syncopated music “splits” the beat with another sound, this required the individuals to anticipate a beat that was not as strong or as clearly audible as the un-syncopated beat.

What researchers are asserting is that there is a relationship in the function of the brain that allows an individual to discern the beat and to move in time to that beat. Essentially, the input to predict the beat and the output to synchronize movement to that beat:

"Our findings have theoretical implications for understanding the functional significance of neural entrainment and the functional basis of individual differences in rhythm perception and sensorimotor synchronization skills. With regard to the functional role of neural entrainment, the finding that neural processes are linked with overt behaviors through temporal prediction is consistent with predictive coding models of brain function"

The study suggests that there may be neurological differences that prevent some individuals from accurately perceiving rhythm. As a community of music aficionados, however, we have a feeling that this isn’t something that we have a major problem with.

Nozaradan, S. et al. Individual Differences in Rhythmic Cortical Entrainment Correlate with Predictive Behavior in Sensorimotor Synchronization. Sci. Rep. 6, 20612; doi: 10.1038/srep20612 (2016).

H/T: The Conversation