Researchers at McGill University and the University of Montreal have discovered that beat-deafness, though very rare, was a problem not simply of how people feel a pulse or move their bodies, but instead, how people synchronize with sounds they hear.
Professor Caroline Palmer said that they examined beat tracking, the ability to find a regular pulse and move with it, in individuals who complained of difficulty following a beat in everyday activities like listening to music and dancing.
Deficits in synchronizing help to uncover fundamental properties of human neural function, such as how auditory and motor systems are integrated in neural networks.
Researchers found that the beat-deaf individuals were able to perceive different rhythms and tap a regular beat in the absence of sound, similarly to control group members but only when they had to move with the beat did they saw a deficit, compared with the control group.
The findings supported the idea that beat-deafness was a problem of how people's internal biological rhythms adapt to or couple with changing sounds in the environment that, in most individuals, make it possible to dance, ice skate with a partner, and bob one's head to the beat of a favorite tune.