How Beat Perception Co-opts Motor Neurophysiology

Trends Cogn Sci. 2021 Feb;25(2):137-150. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2020.11.002. Epub 2020 Dec 24.


Beat perception offers cognitive scientists an exciting opportunity to explore how cognition and action are intertwined in the brain even in the absence of movement. Many believe the motor system predicts the timing of beats, yet current models of beat perception do not specify how this is neurally implemented. Drawing on recent insights into the neurocomputational properties of the motor system, we propose that beat anticipation relies on action-like processes consisting of precisely patterned neural time-keeping activity in the supplementary motor area (SMA), orchestrated and sequenced by activity in the dorsal striatum. In addition to synthesizing recent advances in cognitive science and motor neuroscience, our framework provides testable predictions to guide future work.

Keywords: basal ganglia; beat perception; motor system; music cognition; supplementary motor area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex*
  • Movement
  • Music*
  • Neurophysiology