Knock knock knocking on rhythm's neural doors

ania State, and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan showed that control mechanisms for the two types of movement are quite drastically distinct.

The study monitored eleven volunteer subjects, who performed a simple flex of the wrist while undergoing fMRI monitoring. A visual signal instructed the subjects to do one of three actions: rhythm -- flexing the wrist repeatedly at a comfortable pace, back and forth; discrete -- flexing the wrist, pausing, flexing it back, and rest.

Another set of experiments had the timing of the rhythm dictated to the subjects by a metronome.

The resulting fMRI records displayed far-reaching differences. Rhythmic activity created activity only in the motor areas of the opposite brain hemisphere and in the cerebellum.

Discrete activity was much more extensive, including numerous areas on both sides of the brain, including "planning areas" not directly connected with motor execution.

The difference held up even when careful controls made sure that the amount of actual activity the number of up and down flexes, and their velocity was the same.

"We believe that these results provide strong evidence to refute the hypothesis that rhythmic movement is generated with the help of the discrete movement system," the authors wrote.

However, the opposite is not the case: the authors find that "discrete movement could indeed be generated with the help of the rhythmic movement system."

"What our results indicate is that we really deal with two very separate systems in movement," says Schaal. "There is an automatic system that, literally, functions without any thought; and a separate cognitive system that orchestrates more complex movement.

And music? "Computational neuroscientist theorize that rhythmic movements are generated from oscillator circuits in the brain, and it may be that these inherently rhythmic neural systems make it to easy for us to sw

Contact: Eric Mankin
University of Southern California

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