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Journal Article

Musical rhythm effects on visual attention are non-rhythmical: Evidence against metrical entrainment

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Maess,  Burkhard
Methods and Development Group Brain Networks, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Gunter,  Thomas C.
Department Neuropsychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Schirmer_2021.pdf
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Citation

Schirmer, A., Wijaya, M., Chiu, M. H., Maess, B., & Gunter, T. C. (2021). Musical rhythm effects on visual attention are non-rhythmical: Evidence against metrical entrainment. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 16(1-2), 58-71.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-17EB-6
Abstract
The idea that external rhythms synchronize attention cross-modally has attracted much interest and scientific inquiry. Yet, whether associated attentional modulations are indeed rhythmical in that they spring from and map onto an underlying meter has not been clearly established. Here we tested this idea while addressing the shortcomings of previous work associated with confounding (i) metricality and regularity, (ii) rhythmic and temporal expectations or (iii) global and local temporal effects. We designed sound sequences that varied orthogonally (high/low) in metricality and regularity and presented them as task-irrelevant auditory background in four separate blocks. The participants' task was to detect rare visual targets occurring at a silent metrically aligned or misaligned temporal position. We found that target timing was irrelevant for reaction times and visual event-related potentials. High background regularity and to a lesser extent metricality facilitated target processing across metrically aligned and misaligned positions. Additionally, high regularity modulated auditory background frequencies in the EEG recorded over occipital cortex. We conclude that external rhythms, rather than synchronizing attention cross-modally, confer general, nontemporal benefits. Their predictability conserves processing resources that then benefit stimulus representations in other modalities.