We are delighted to announce a new publication from BEL members: “Directed motor-auditory EEG connectivity is modulated by music tempo” which has been published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00502)

Authors: Nicoletta Nicolaou, Asad Malik, Ian Daly, James Weaver, Faustina Hwang, Alexis Kirke, Etienne B. Roesch, Duncan Williams, Eduardo R. Miranda and Slawomir Nasuto

Beat perception is fundamental to how we experience music, and yet the mechanism behind this spontaneous building of the internal beat representation is largely unknown. Existing findings support links between the tempo (speed) of the beat and enhancement of electroencephalogram (EEG) activity at tempo-related frequencies, but there are no studies looking at how tempo may affect the underlying long-range interactions between EEG activity at different electrodes. The present study investigates these long-range interactions using EEG activity recorded from 21 volunteers listening to music stimuli played at 4 different tempi (50, 100, 150 and 200 beats per minute). The music stimuli consisted of piano excerpts designed to convey the emotion of ‘peacefulness’. Noise stimuli with an identical acoustic content to the music excerpts were also presented for comparison purposes. The brain activity interactions were characterized with the imaginary part of coherence (iCOH) in the frequency range 1.5-18 Hz (δ, θ, α, and lower β) between all pairs of EEG electrodes for the four tempi and the music/noise conditions, as well as a baseline resting state condition obtained at the start of the experimental task. Our findings can be summarized as follows: (a) there was an ongoing long-range interaction in the resting state engaging fronto-posterior areas; (b) this interaction was maintained in both music and noise, but its strength and directionality were modulated as a result of acoustic stimulation; (c) the topological patterns of iCOH were similar for music, noise and resting state, however statistically significant differences in strength and direction of iCOH were identified; and (d) tempo had an effect on the direction and strength of motor-auditory interactions. Our findings are in line with existing literature and illustrate a part of the mechanism by which musical stimuli with different tempi can entrain changes in cortical activity.