Bobbing your head, tapping your heel, or clapping along with the music is a natural response for most people, but what about those who can’t keep a beat?
Researchers at McGill University and the University of Montreal, have discovered that beat-deafness, though very rare, is a problem not simply of how people feel a pulse or move their bodies, but instead, how people synchronize with sounds they hear.
“We examined beat tracking, the ability to find a regular pulse and move with it, in individuals who complained of difficulty following a beat in everyday activities like listening to music and dancing,” says McGill psychology professor Caroline Palmer.
Deficits in synchronizing help to uncover fundamental properties of human neural function, such as how auditory and motor systems are integrated in neural networks.
Because beat deafness is so rare, the researchers compared two beat deaf individuals with 32 control participants of comparable age and educational level. Listeners were asked to tap evenly in the absence of any sound. The researchers found that all participants performed this task well, ruling out a general motor deficit.