Friday, July 28, 2017

Mind Control By Rhythmic Sound


scientificamerican |  You walk into a bar and music is thumping. All heads are bobbing and feet tapping in synchrony. Somehow the rhythmic sound grabs control of the brains of everyone in the room forcing them to operate simultaneously and perform the same behaviors in synchrony. How is this possible? Is this unconscious mind control by rhythmic sound only driving our bodily motions, or could it be affecting deeper mental processes?

The mystery runs deeper than previously thought, according to psychologist Annett Schirmer reporting new findings today at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. Rhythmic sound “not only coordinates the behavior of people in a group, it also coordinates their thinking—the mental processes of individuals in the group become synchronized.”

This finding extends the well-known power of music to tap into brain circuits controlling emotion and movement, to actually control the brain circuitry of sensory perception. This discovery helps explain how drums unite tribes in ceremony, why armies march to bugle and drum into battle, why worship and ceremonies are infused by song, why speech is rhythmic, punctuated by rhythms of emphasis on particular syllables and words, and perhaps why we dance.

Schirmer and her graduate student Nicolas Escoffier from the University of Singapore first tested subjects by flashing a series of images on a video monitor and asked them to quickly identify when an image was flipped upside down. While participants focused on this task, a synthetic drumbeat gently tapped out a simple four-beat rhythm in the background, syncopated by skipping the fourth beat of each measure.