Tuesday, 12 April 2016


I was quite sceptical at first when I read the articles about joint action and synchronisation ‘Social connection through joint action and interpersonal coordination’ by Marsh, Richardson and Schmidt and ‘Periodic and aperiodic synchronisation in skilled action’ by Fred Cummins. I could not get my head around coupling between two individuals. Hasson (2011) states that ‘Brain to brain coupling is the perceptual system of one brain can be coupled to the motor system of another’. Signals and stimulation come from another individual’s brain and body. However in order to become ‘coupled’ both individuals need to function in a similar way. 

After doing some reading in the area of synchronisation in music I’m starting to comprehend it a bit better. I think applying the theory to music makes it much easier to understand. Synchronisation in music refers to the coordination of rhythmic movement with an external event. It has been shown in a vast amount of studies that musicians are able to synchronise with other people and music tools such as a metronomes. I find it fascinating how musicians are capable of playing in synchrony together but how do they do it so perfectly? It is as if our brains switch off when playing and essentially we play with our partners in the moment. Children as young as four can coordinate or synchronise spontaneously with one another. This was shown in a very recent study by Endedijk et al. (2015) where children played the drums together and synchronised their hits and bouts. Does this suggest that individuals couple with their instruments and also their partners? 

This synchronisation is clearly evident in traditional Irish music. It is amazing to watch a number of musicians playing in sync with each other even though they are playing different instruments and different rhythms. The most fascinating part is their ability to change to a new rhythm or song without consulting one another first. Another interesting question is why is coordination more enhanced when it is with real people in comparison to when it is with recordings? One study suggests it is because the brain is using the auditory cortex when carrying out the task. It is as if the person is processing somebody else doing the  activity instead of doing it themselves. There is a definite need for more research in the area of synchronisation in musicians to be able to fully understand what processes are involved in this coordinated playing.

I’m still not fully convinced that our brains send signals to each other but I find the topic really interesting and I am intrigued to find out more about it.

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