You ever have a song stuck in your head or found yourself bobbing your head to music playing in the background? How about get so moved by music you spontaneously break out into dance because you can’t stop your body from feeling the groove? According to the study I read, this is due to the brain’s attention system in conjunction with an individual interaction with the music. This cognitive processes is called sensorimotor coupling, the attentional engagement of an individual due to their mental arousal of music. You synchronize your body readily to music due to sensorimotor coupling. This works best when the music has good attentional capture, the unintentional change of attention by a change in stimulus, this could interrupt other processing. Spontaneous sensorimotor coupling with a music related study showed to have positive affects (the internal feeling state when a goal has been reached, a threat has been avoided, or a feeling of content with present state of affairs.)
I was interested in this article because I love to dance and I often do get lost in this so called “groove.” I find myself bobbing my head, tapping my foot, or (given the right environment) spontaneously interpretive dancing to whatever jam is playing. This is all due to the attentional capture of the song. For example, the beat or the swell of the chorus that catches our attention and (whether we are “paying attention” to it or not) we get carried by the music. This happens more easily in individuals whose response selector more readily recognises it as music to groove to. Automaticity plays into this too by becoming an unconscious, spontaneous reaction to hearing the music. This is more prominent in musically trained individuals and those who dance (trained/untrained dancers) this is referred to as muscle memory (automaticity of spontaneous rehearsed movements).
So what causes this groove? Why do we get so much enjoyment out of moving our bodies freely to music? It’s obvious that music has it’s own individual formula for what’s “good music?” We already know that music and sensorimotor coupling combined have positive affects and we like that it makes us feel good. According to the study, we enjoy a good, steady beat just as much as the next aspiring club DJ, but we enjoy asymmetry in music as well. The more complex the music (while still sounding like music of course) increases the stimulus intensity, which arouses our mind more. Giving way to more spontaneous sensorimotor movement and more readily engages listeners to move (aka feel the groove).
This study concluded that the relationship between complex musical scenes and attentional engagement was shown in spontaneous sensorimotor coupling and emotion (positive and happy emotions). The more complex and emotional the song, the more easily it would grab our attention, invoking the spontaneous and emotional groove where the music could “carry the body”. This ability to feel the groove was rated, on average, the same for musically trained and non-musically trained individuals. For those individuals who had a hard time finding the groove, they became a phenomenon referred to as “beat deafness.” These individuals moved slower and rated to feel the groove lower than average. They also had a difficult time synchronizing with the beats. This was shown to be a task-specific sensorimotor deficit. To conclude myself, I found this study so interesting. The fact that they would put this much effort into learning the connections of the mind with music. Music has long been used to tell stories and relay emotions and memories for a long time, dance as well. To know the cognitive processes behind the expressions of music and how it is expressed and connected to dance, that’s groovy.