August 2016
Volume 16, Issue 12
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Moving to Music: Saccadic and Motor Entrainment to a Musical Beat
Author Affiliations
  • Jonathan Batten
    Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Fred Dick
    Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Tim Smith
    Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London
Journal of Vision September 2016, Vol.16, 474. doi:
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      Jonathan Batten, Fred Dick, Tim Smith; Moving to Music: Saccadic and Motor Entrainment to a Musical Beat. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):474.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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It is commonplace to observe people moving their bodies to music. The bulk of research into musical entrainment utilises explicit beat matching tasks, yet there is some evidence of implicit entrainment. Changes in musical tempi influence physiological responses (heart rate and respiration), as well as the timing of motor actions, such as increased drawing speed with faster music. Eye movements have also shown to be explicitly entrained to a regular tone; fixation durations have been modulated by different musical tempi when observing scenes. However, it is currently unclear if saccadic timing can be implicitly entrained by music. This study investigated the explicit and implicit influence of musical tempo on eye movement and finger-tap timing during a sequential visual search task. Participants completed a visual search task that was either gaze or tap contingent, and either accompanied by irrelevant music, or music they were instructed to move in time with. Participants moved sequentially clockwise around 12 small black circles resembling an ellipse, identifying colour transitions (red to blue) with a single finger tap when gaze contingent, or changing the tapping hand when tap contingent. This task was accompanied either by simple music at three tempi (168, 196, 236 BPM) or silence. The tempi were informed by eye movement latencies in a silent pilot study. When explicitly tasked to move in time, both the eye movement and finger-tap latencies were significantly slower and more synchronous than when not tasked. Explicit tap responses were significantly more synchronised than eye movements, which were typically near random. The limited eye movement synchronicity suggests that individuals have limited direct control over the saccadic timer. Neither task showed any evidence of passive entrainment in the latencies or between the music and silent conditions, suggesting that motor and saccadic timing are not influenced by an irrelevant musical rhythm.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016


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