Capturing with EEG the neural entrainment and coupling underlying sensorimotor synchronization to the beat

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Mar;25(3):736-47. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht261. Epub 2013 Oct 9.


Synchronizing movements with rhythmic inputs requires tight coupling of sensory and motor neural processes. Here, using a novel approach based on the recording of steady-state-evoked potentials (SS-EPs), we examine how distant brain areas supporting these processes coordinate their dynamics. The electroencephalogram was recorded while subjects listened to a 2.4-Hz auditory beat and tapped their hand on every second beat. When subjects tapped to the beat, the EEG was characterized by a 2.4-Hz SS-EP compatible with beat-related entrainment and a 1.2-Hz SS-EP compatible with movement-related entrainment, based on the results of source analysis. Most importantly, when compared with passive listening of the beat, we found evidence suggesting an interaction between sensory- and motor-related activities when subjects tapped to the beat, in the form of (1) additional SS-EP appearing at 3.6 Hz, compatible with a nonlinear product of sensorimotor integration; (2) phase coupling of beat- and movement-related activities; and (3) selective enhancement of beat-related activities over the hemisphere contralateral to the tapping, suggesting a top-down effect of movement-related activities on auditory beat processing. Taken together, our results are compatible with the view that rhythmic sensorimotor synchronization is supported by a dynamic coupling of sensory and motor related activities.

Keywords: EEG; music cognition; neuronal entrainment; rhythm perception; sensorimotor synchronization; steady-state-evoked potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Waves*
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Young Adult