Rhythmic auditory stimulation (RAS) is a gait rehabilitation method in which patients synchronize footsteps to a metronome or musical beats. Although RAS with music can ameliorate gait abnormalities, outcomes vary, possibly because music properties, such as groove or familiarity, differ across interventions. To optimize future interventions, we assessed how initially familiar and unfamiliar low-groove and high-groove music affected synchronization accuracy and gait in healthy individuals. We also experimentally increased music familiarity using repeated exposure to initially unfamiliar songs. Overall, familiar music elicited faster stride velocity and less variable strides, as well as better synchronization performance (matching of step tempo to beat tempo). High-groove music, as reported previously, led to faster stride velocity than low-groove music. We propose two mechanisms for familiarity's effects. First, familiarity with the beat structure reduces cognitive demands of synchronizing, leading to better synchronization performance and faster, less variable gait. Second, familiarity might have elicited faster gait by increasing enjoyment of the music, as enjoyment was higher after repeated exposure to initially low-enjoyment songs. Future studies are necessary to dissociate the contribution of these mechanisms to the observed RAS effects of familiar music on gait.
Keywords: familiarity; gait rehabilitation; groove; rhythm; rhythmic auditory stimulation.
© 2015 New York Academy of Sciences.