Integration of Auditory and Tactile Inputs in Musical Meter Perception

  • Juan Huang
  • Darik Gamble
  • Kristine Sarnlertsophon
  • Xiaoqin Wang
  • Steven Hsiao
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (volume 787)


Musicians often say that they not only hear but also “feel” music. To explore the contribution of tactile information to “feeling” music, we investigated the degree that auditory and tactile inputs are integrated in humans performing a musical meter-recognition task. Subjects discriminated between two types of sequences, “duple” (march-like rhythms) and “triple” (waltz-like rhythms), presented in three conditions: (1) unimodal inputs (auditory or tactile alone); (2) various combinations of bimodal inputs, where sequences were distributed between the auditory and tactile channels such that a single channel did not produce coherent meter percepts; and (3) bimodal inputs where the two channels contained congruent or incongruent meter cues. We first show that meter is perceived similarly well (70–85 %) when tactile or auditory cues are presented alone. We next show in the bimodal experiments that auditory and tactile cues are integrated to produce coherent meter percepts. Performance is high (70–90 %) when all of the metrically important notes are assigned to one channel and is reduced to 60 % when half of these notes are assigned to one channel. When the important notes are presented simultaneously to both channels, congruent cues enhance meter recognition (90 %). Performance dropped dramatically when subjects were presented with incongruent auditory cues (10 %), as opposed to incongruent tactile cues (60 %), demonstrating that auditory input dominates meter perception. These observations support the notion that meter perception is a cross-modal percept with tactile inputs underlying the perception of “feeling” music.


  1. Bendor D, Wang X (2006) Cortical representations of pitch in monkeys and humans. Curr Opin Neurobiol 16:391–399PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bengtson SL, Ullén F, Ehrsson HH, Hashimoto T, Kito T, Naito E, Forssberg H, Sadato N (2009) Listening to rhythms activates motor and premotor cortices. Cortex 45:62–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bresciani JP, Dammeier F, Ernst MO (2008) Tri-modal integration of visual, tactile and auditory signals for the perception of sequences of events. Brain Res Bull 75:753–760PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brochard R, Touzalin P, Després O, Dufour A (2008) Evidence of beat perception via purely tactile stimulation. Brain Res 1223:59–64PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chubbuck JG (1966) Small motion biological stimulator. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Technical Digest May–June 18–23Google Scholar
  6. Cooper G, Meyer LB (1960) The rhythmic structure of music. The University of Chicago, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  7. Drake C, Penel A, Bigand E (2000) Tapping in time with mechanically and expressively performed music. Music Percept 18:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fraisse P (1982) Rhythm and tempo. In: Deutsch D (ed) The psychology of music. Academic, New York, pp 149–180Google Scholar
  9. Grahn JA, Brett M (2007) Rhythm and beat perception in motor areas of the brain. J Cogn Neurosci 19:893–906PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Guttman SE, Gilroy LA, Blake R (2005) Hearing what the eyes see: auditory encoding of visual temporal sequences. Psychol Sci 16:228–235PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hannon EE, Johnson SP (2005) Infants use meter to categorize rhythms and melodies: implications for musical structure learning. Cogn Psychol 50:354–377PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hsiao SS, Gomez-Ramirez M (2011) Touch. In: Gottfried JA (ed) The neurobiology of sensation and reward. CRC Press, Lausanne, pp 141–160Google Scholar
  13. Huang J, Gamble D, samlertsophon K, Wang XQ, Hsiao S (2012) Feeling music: integration of auditory and tactile inputs in musical meter perception. PloS one, Vol. 7, No. 10, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048496
  14. Ivry RB (1996) The representation of temporal information in perception and motor control. Curr Opin Neurobiol 6:851–857PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson KO, Hsiao SS (1992) Neural mechanisms of tactual form and texture perception. Annu Rev Neurosci 15:227–250PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Keller PE, Repp BH (2005) Staying offbeat: sensorimotor syncopation with structured and unstructured auditory sequences. Psychol Res 69(4):292–309PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Palmer C, Krumhansl CL (1990) Mental representations for musical meter. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 16:728–741PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Peretz I, Hyde K (2003) Varieties of musical disorders: the Montreal battery of evaluation of amusia. Ann N Y Acad Sci 999:58–75PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Phillips-Silver J, Trainor LJ (2005) Feeling the beat: movement influences infant rhythm perception. Science 308:1430PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Phillips-Silver J, Trainor LJ (2007) Hearing what the body feels: auditory encoding of rhythmic movement. Cognition 105:533–546PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Povel DJ, Essens P (1985) Perception of temporal patterns. Music Percept 2:411–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Randel DM (1986) The New Harvard dictionary of music. Belknap, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. Spence C, Chen YC (2012) Intramodal and Cross-modal perceptual grouping. In: Stein BE (ed) The new handbook of multisensory processing. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Talbot WH, Darian-Smith I, Kornhuber HH, Mountcastle VB (1968) The sense of flutter-vibration. J Neurophysiol 31:301–334PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Trainor LJ, Gao X, Lei JJ, Lehtovaara K, Harris LR (2009) The primal role of the vestibular system in determining musical rhythm. Cortex 45:35–43PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zatorre RJ, Chen JL, Penhune VB (2007) When the brain plays music: auditory-motor interactions in music perception and production. Nat Rev Neurosci 8:547–558PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Darik Gamble
    • 2
  • Kristine Sarnlertsophon
    • 1
  • Xiaoqin Wang
    • 2
  • Steven Hsiao
    • 1
  1. 1.The Solomon H. Snyder Department of NeuroscienceZanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, The Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Laboratory of Auditory Neurophysiology, Department of Biomedical EngineeringThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations