The neural basis of audiomotor entrainment: an ALE meta-analysis

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Sep 30:8:776. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00776. eCollection 2014.


Synchronization of body movement to an acoustic rhythm is a major form of entrainment, such as occurs in dance. This is exemplified in experimental studies of finger tapping. Entrainment to a beat is contrasted with movement that is internally driven and is therefore self-paced. In order to examine brain areas important for entrainment to an acoustic beat, we meta-analyzed the functional neuroimaging literature on finger tapping (43 studies) using activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis with a focus on the contrast between externally-paced and self-paced tapping. The results demonstrated a dissociation between two subcortical systems involved in timing, namely the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. Externally-paced tapping highlighted the importance of the spinocerebellum, most especially the vermis, which was not activated at all by self-paced tapping. In contrast, the basal ganglia, including the putamen and globus pallidus, were active during both types of tapping, but preferentially during self-paced tapping. These results suggest a central role for the spinocerebellum in audiomotor entrainment. We conclude with a theoretical discussion about the various forms of entrainment in humans and other animals.

Keywords: ALE; acoustic; basal ganglia; cerebellum; entrainment; finger tapping; meter; timing.