March 17, 2009

Musicians instruments, brain waves in sync

When musicians play together it isn't just their instruments that are in sync, their brain waves are too, researchers in Germany said.

Ulman Lindenberger, Viktor Muller and Shu-Chen Li of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, along with Walter Gruber from the University of Salzburg, used electroencephalography to record the brain electrical activity in eight pairs of guitarists.

Each of the pairs played a short jazz-fusion melody together up to 60 times while the electroencephalograph picked up their brain waves through electrodes on their scalps.

The similarities among the brainwaves' phase, both within and between the brains of the musicians, increased significantly -- first when listening to a metronome beat in preparation, and again as they began to play together.

Our findings show that interpersonally coordinated actions are preceded and accompanied by between-brain oscillatory couplings, Lindenberger said in a statement. The results don't show whether this coupling occurs in response to the beat of the metronome and music, and as a result of watching each others' movements and listening to each others' music, or whether the brain synchronization takes place first and causes the coordinated performance.

The findings are published in the journal BMC Neuroscience.