Rhythm is an essential element of human culture, particularly in language and music. To acquire language or music, we have to perceive the sensory inputs, organize them into structured sequences as rhythms, actively hold the rhythm information in mind, and use the information when we reproduce or mimic the same rhythm. Previous brain imaging studies have elucidated brain regions related to the perception and production of rhythms. However, the neural substrates involved in the working memory of rhythm remain unclear. In addition, little is known about the processing of rhythm information from non-auditory inputs (visual or tactile). Therefore, we measured brain activity by functional magnetic resonance imaging while healthy subjects memorized and reproduced auditory and visual rhythmic information. The inferior parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus, supplementary motor area, and cerebellum exhibited significant activations during both encoding and retrieving rhythm information. In addition, most of these areas exhibited significant activation also during the maintenance of rhythm information. All of these regions functioned in the processing of auditory and visual rhythms. The bilateral inferior parietal lobule, inferior frontal gyrus, supplementary motor area, and cerebellum are thought to be essential for motor control. When we listen to a certain rhythm, we are often stimulated to move our body, which suggests the existence of a strong interaction between rhythm processing and the motor system. Here, we propose that rhythm information may be represented and retained as information about bodily movements in the supra-modal motor brain system.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience