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J Neurosci. 2011 Jul 13;31(28):10234-40. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0411-11.2011.

Tagging the neuronal entrainment to beat and meter.

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Institute of Neuroscience, Université Catholique de Louvain, B-1200 Brussels, Belgium.


Feeling the beat and meter is fundamental to the experience of music. However, how these periodicities are represented in the brain remains largely unknown. Here, we test whether this function emerges from the entrainment of neurons resonating to the beat and meter. We recorded the electroencephalogram while participants listened to a musical beat and imagined a binary or a ternary meter on this beat (i.e., a march or a waltz). We found that the beat elicits a sustained periodic EEG response tuned to the beat frequency. Most importantly, we found that meter imagery elicits an additional frequency tuned to the corresponding metric interpretation of this beat. These results provide compelling evidence that neural entrainment to beat and meter can be captured directly in the electroencephalogram. More generally, our results suggest that music constitutes a unique context to explore entrainment phenomena in dynamic cognitive processing at the level of neural networks.

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