Pulse and meter as neural resonance

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:46-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04550.x.


The experience of musical rhythm is a remarkable psychophysical phenomenon, in part because the perception of periodicities, namely pulse and meter, arise from stimuli that are not periodic. One possible function of such a transformation is to enable synchronization between individuals through perception of a common abstract temporal structure (e.g., during music performance). Thus, understanding the brain processes that underlie rhythm perception is fundamental to explaining musical behavior. Here, we propose that neural resonance provides an excellent account of many aspects of human rhythm perception. Our framework is consistent with recent brain-imaging studies showing neural correlates of rhythm perception in high-frequency oscillatory activity, and leads to the hypothesis that perception of pulse and meter result from rhythmic bursts of high-frequency neural activity in response to musical rhythms. High-frequency bursts of activity may enable communication between neural areas, such as auditory and motor cortices, during rhythm perception and production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Music*
  • Periodicity