Temporal prediction abilities are mediated by motor effector and rhythmic expertise

Exp Brain Res. 2017 Mar;235(3):861-871. doi: 10.1007/s00221-016-4845-8. Epub 2016 Dec 1.


Motor synchronization is a critical part of musical performance and listening. Recently, motor control research has described how movements that contain more available degrees of freedom are more accurately timed. Previously, we demonstrated that stick tapping improves perception in a timing detection task, where percussionists greatly outperformed non-percussionists only when tapping along. Since most synchronization studies implement finger tapping to examine simple motor synchronization, here we completed a similar task where percussionists and non-percussionists synchronized using finger tapping; movement with fewer degrees of freedom than stick tapping. Percussionists and non-percussionists listened to an isochronous beat sequence and identified the timing of a probe tone. On half of the trials, they tapped along with their index finger, and on the other half of the trials, they listened without moving prior to making timing judgments. We found that both groups benefited from tapping overall. Interestingly, percussionists performed only marginally better than did non-percussionists when finger tapping and no different when listening alone, differing from past studies reporting highly superior timing abilities in percussionists. Additionally, we found that percussionist finger tapping was less variable and less asynchronous than was non-percussionist tapping. Moreover, in both groups finger tapping was more variable and more asynchronous than stick tapping in our previous study. This study demonstrates that the motor effector implemented in tapping studies affects not only synchronization abilities, but also subsequent prediction abilities. We discuss these findings in light of effector-specific training and degrees of freedom in motor timing, both of which impact timing abilities to different extents.

Keywords: Finger tapping; Motor effector; Movement timing; Musical training; Sensorimotor integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Music
  • Periodicity
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult