Superior Visual Timing Sensitivity in Auditory But Not Visual World Class Drum Corps Experts

eNeuro. 2018 Dec 14;5(6):ENEURO.0241-18.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0241-18.2018. eCollection 2018 Nov-Dec.


World class drum corps require cooperation among performance artists to render precisely synchronized and asynchronized events. For example, drum corps visual aesthetics often feature salient radial and rotational motion displays from the color guard. Accordingly, extensive color guard training might predict superior visual timing sensitivity to asynchronies in radial and rotational motion displays. Less intuitively, one might instead predict superior visual timing sensitivity among world class drum corps musicians, who regularly subdivide musical tempos into brief time units. This prediction arises from the possibility that auditory training transfers cross-modally. Here, we investigated whether precise visual temporal order judgments (TOJs) more strongly align with color guard's visual training or musicians' auditory training. To mimic color guard visual displays, stimuli comprised bilateral plaid patterns that radiated or rotated before changing direction asynchronously. Human participants indicated whether the direction changed first on the left or right, called a TOJ. Twenty-five percussionists, 67 brass players, and 29 color guard members from a world class drum corps collectively completed 67,760 visual TOJ trials. Percussionists exhibited significantly lower TOJ thresholds than did brass players, who exhibited significantly lower TOJ thresholds than did the color guard. Group median thresholds spanned an order of magnitude, ranging between 29 ms (percussionists judging rotational asynchronies) and 290 ms (color guard judging radial asynchronies). The results suggest that visual timing can improve more by training cross-modally than intramodally, even when intramodal training and testing stimuli closely match. More broadly, pre-existing training histories can provide a unique window into the timing sensitivity of the nervous system.

Keywords: musical experts; perceptual learning; psychophysics; radial and rotational motion; temporal order judgments; temporal vision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Professional Competence
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Rotation
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult