Music is almost universal. Every society on earth has music blended into its culture, and music, inevitably, brings dance.
But why are we so driven to move out limbs, heads, and bodies to rhythmic sounds? A facet of music that often goes hand in hand with dancing is the heavy use of bass. Be it the beat of a drum or the pulsing sound from a subwoofer, the bass is often a driving factor in our desire to move in time with the music.
A new study set out to investigate music and the brain, and although it does not fully answer the questions above, it does give new insight into music and the human experience. The results were published this week in the journal PNAS.
The scientists – from Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute in Australia – were particularly interested in the way that our brains process low-frequency sounds. The scientists played each participant rhythmic patterns, in either a high- or low-pitched tone, and recorded the electrical activity of the person’s brain using electroencephalography (EEG). They found that brain activity became synchronized with the frequency of the beat.
In the current study, however, they found that bass-heavy music was more successful at locking the brain into the rhythm. The lower frequencies, it seems, strong-arm the brain into synchronizing. The lower frequencies, as the authors write, boost “selective neural locking to the beat.”
The authors theorize that the synchronizing effect that bass has on the brain could be due to “a greater recruitment of brain structures involved in movement planning and control,” such as the cerebellum and basal ganglia.
These findings provide a sliver of insight into music and the human need to dance along, but there are also potential medical applications, Using the brain’s natural ability to lock on to a rhythm may help treat a range of conditions.
“Music,” study co-author Dr. Peter Keller explains, “is increasingly being used in clinical rehabilitation of cognitive and motor disorders caused by brain damage and these findings, and a better understanding of the relationship between music and movement could help develop such treatments.”
I have always loved music. As a little child, my mother would frequently have the wall mounted radio playing all day long. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Sammie Davis Jr. filled the house with their voices. However, there wasn’t a lot of bass to their music.
Then the 60’s arrived and with it, rock and roll. The bass was infective and we all had to dance. Many adults claimed it was the music of the devil and that dancing was a prelude to teenage sex. Now we know it was just synchronizing the brain.
Music still drives me. I love the bass used by cycling instructors to sync our pedal cadence. Many instructors will set the pace based on the bass. I was never a fan of Disco, but I have to admit, the bass does work in a spinning class.
I prefer the Blues. I wear headphones and listen to Samantha Fish, Joe Bonamassa and Tab Benoit while I cut the grass, clean the pool or work on the boat. The Blues got me through the drive to Tallahassee and back last weekend to drop my daughter off at FSU.
As noted at the beginning of this article, every culture has music. Make music a part of your life and get out on that dance floor or dance around the kitchen to the beat.
Source: August 18, 2018 National Institutes of Health
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