8th Annual Meeting of the International Multisensory Research Forum
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Laurel Trainor

The Primal Role of the Vestibular System in Determining Musical Rhythm
Single Paper Presentation

Laurel Trainor
Psychology, Neurosience & Behaviour, McMaster University

Xiaoqing Gao
Psychology, Neurosience & Behaviour, McMaster University

Karen Lehtovaara
Psychology, Neurosience & Behaviour, McMaster University

Jing-jiang Lei
Psychology, Neurosience & Behaviour, McMaster University

Laurence Harris
Centre for Vision Research, York University

     Abstract ID Number: 26
     Full text: Not available
     Last modified: March 4, 2007
     Presentation date: 07/05/2007 4:10 PM in Quad General Lecture Theatre
     (View Schedule)

Previous studies have indicated that physical movement on either every second or every third beat of a repeating unaccented 6-beat auditory rhythm pattern can disambiguate whether it is perceived in duple time as a march or in triple time as a waltz (Phillips-Silver & Trainor, 2005, 2007). Here we demonstrate that this disambiguation can also be accomplished by direct galvanic stimulation of the vestibular system. During familiarization, adults listened to the ambiguous auditory rhythm pattern while galvanic stimulation was applied, timed to induce the sensation that the head moved from side to side on every second beat or on every third auditory beat. In a subsequent 2-alternative-forced-choice test subjects chose which of two versions sounded most like the auditory pattern heard during familiarization, a version with physical (intensity) accents on every second beat and a version with accents on every third beat. Vestibular stimulation strongly biased whether adults perceived the ambiguous rhythm as being in duple or in triple time in the absence of any physical movement during familiarization. Control galvanic stimulation of the elbows had no such effect. Thus the vestibular system may play a primal role in the perception of musical rhythm.

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