Neural Networks for Beat Perception in Musical Rhythm

Front Syst Neurosci. 2015 Nov 25;9:159. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2015.00159. eCollection 2015.


Entrainment of cortical rhythms to acoustic rhythms has been hypothesized to be the neural correlate of pulse and meter perception in music. Dynamic attending theory first proposed synchronization of endogenous perceptual rhythms nearly 40 years ago, but only recently has the pivotal role of neural synchrony been demonstrated. Significant progress has since been made in understanding the role of neural oscillations and the neural structures that support synchronized responses to musical rhythm. Synchronized neural activity has been observed in auditory and motor networks, and has been linked with attentional allocation and movement coordination. Here we describe a neurodynamic model that shows how self-organization of oscillations in interacting sensory and motor networks could be responsible for the formation of the pulse percept in complex rhythms. In a pulse synchronization study, we test the model's key prediction that pulse can be perceived at a frequency for which no spectral energy is present in the amplitude envelope of the acoustic rhythm. The result shows that participants perceive the pulse at the theoretically predicted frequency. This model is one of the few consistent with neurophysiological evidence on the role of neural oscillation, and it explains a phenomenon that other computational models fail to explain. Because it is based on a canonical model, the predictions hold for an entire family of dynamical systems, not only a specific one. Thus, this model provides a theoretical link between oscillatory neurodynamics and the induction of pulse and meter in musical rhythm.

Keywords: beat perception; dynamical systems; musical rhythm; neural networks; neural resonance.