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Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Rhythm perception

Humans (and some other animals) have a sense of 'rhythm', i.e. the ability to detect and react with 'beats' - normally in musical compositions. Professional drummers can 'beat time' with accuracies of just a few milliseconds per beat (ref. PLOS biology)

This implies that the brain has an internal 'clock' (running at accuracies down to milliseconds) against which a musician can reference his/her motor outputs.

There are two main theories of how this might be happening. One is that the beats can be judged and reacted-to in an 'absolute' way (with reference to the mental clock) - the other is that the beats are judged 'relatively' to the previous beats (involving a 'memory' of the timings).

Experiments and observations of brain-damaged patients have located (at least some of) the brain areas where the 'clock' appears to be located.

There is reasonable consensus that the cerebellum is involved in absolute timing mechanisms, and basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuits are involved in relative timing mechanisms.
Source: Neural Mechanisms of Rhythm Perception: Present Findings and Future Directions

But the underlying biological mechanisms which might be able to regulate a 'clock' at such accuracies are completely unknown.

There is also no explanation from an evolutionary standpoint as to why this highly accurate timing system might have evolved.

Note: Longer periods (minutes, hours, days, weeks etc etc) of humans' time perception, which is also unexplained (and which may or may not be related to the beat perception clock) can be found here : Time Awarenessplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigTime Awareness

"“Anticipating events that will happen in the future is among the most important functions the brain performs. Indeed, it has been increasingly stressed that learning and memory are prospective brain functions; that is, they are only adaptive to the ext…


Also see Musical Appreciationplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigMusical appreciation

Music psychologists are trying to understand the processes that support musical behaviours - including perception, comprehension, memory, attention, emotional effects, and performance.

Many decades of extensive research has investigated :
and Core Clockplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigCore Clock

In humans, and most [all?] other mammals, the 'Core Clock' which regulates variations in body functions is set to (approximately) 24 hours. This is the so-called Circadian Rhythm. - which in many organisms, is synchronised via daylight.

The clock is regul…

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