Midbrain adaptation may set the stage for the perception of musical beat.
Rajendran VG., Harper NS., Garcia-Lazaro JA., Lesica NA., Schnupp JWH.
The ability to spontaneously feel a beat in music is a phenomenon widely believed to be unique to humans. Though beat perception involves the coordinated engagement of sensory, motor and cognitive processes in humans, the contribution of low-level auditory processing to the activation of these networks in a beat-specific manner is poorly understood. Here, we present evidence from a rodent model that midbrain preprocessing of sounds may already be shaping where the beat is ultimately felt. For the tested set of musical rhythms, on-beat sounds on average evoked higher firing rates than off-beat sounds, and this difference was a defining feature of the set of beat interpretations most commonly perceived by human listeners over others. Basic firing rate adaptation provided a sufficient explanation for these results. Our findings suggest that midbrain adaptation, by encoding the temporal context of sounds, creates points of neural emphasis that may influence the perceptual emergence of a beat.