Mental Timing Research

For more than 30 years, neuroscientists have explored the role of timing in the brain for such things as speech perception (auditory processing), speech production (intelligible articulation), language, reading, attention, memory, cognitive processing speed, decision-making, behavior (impulse-control), and motor coordination.  Over the past 10-15 years, they’ve turned their focus toward studying how deficient neural communication (impaired timing in the brain) contributes to various clinical disorders like autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Parkinson’s.  “Timing in the brain” remains a very active area of research with new studies being published regularly.

The Importance of Timing in the Brain

Dr. Kevin McGrew

Peer-reviewed research supports the view that impaired timing in the brain contributes significantly to impairments in the above named skill areas.  Research also supports the opinion that timing in the brain can be trained and improved through appropriate, targeted intervention. Each study referenced below contains commentary to help elucidate the connection between timing in the brain, its central role in various human abilities and disorders, and how the Interactive Metronome may be of benefit. The studies referenced here were not conducted using the Interactive Metronome.

ADD/ADHD

  • In order for a child to have good self-control (i.e., behavior), the timing system in the brain must be operating normally.  Faulty timing is at the heart of ADHD. Researchers in Australia recently developed a set of questions for parents of children with ADHD that will help doctors and therapists better pinpoint whether there is a problem with timing skills and whether or not they are getting better with treatment.  This is a valuable tool for professionals who use Interactive Metronome in the treatment of ADHD to measure and document the effect of the treatment, which improves timing in the brain.

Houghton, S., Durkin, K., Ang, R.P., Taylor, M.F., and Brandtman, M. (2011). Measuring Temporal Self-Regulation in Children With and Without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Sense of Time in Everyday Contexts.  European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 27(2), 88-94.

 

  • A recent study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute (2011) showed that areas of the brain that control thinking and motor skills are different (smaller) in children with ADHD compared to other children.  The specific regions of the brain that were mentioned are known to be involved in mental timing.  Mental timing (AKA timing in the brain) is vital for many of our thinking skills and for good motor coordination.  Studies have shown that timing in the brain is disrupted in children and adults with ADHD, leading to problems with focus, other cognitive abilities, and motor skills. Interactive Metronome, a patented non-medical treatment for ADHD, is the ONLY program that simultaneously works on thinking AND motor skills by specifically addressing and improving the areas of the brain responsible for mental timing.

Kennedy Krieger Institute (2011, June 10). Brain imaging study of preschoolers with ADHD detects brain differences linked to symptoms.

 

  • Children with ADHD often have social problems that can make living with ADHD so much MORE difficult!! A study by Koflet et al (2011) examined what might be behind this problem so that professionals are able to address this issue more effectively and improve the quality of life for these children and their families.  What they found is that each of us must be able to hold information in our memory about what is going on in a social situation at any given time, and that this information must be updated constantly so that we are not “out of sync” with everyone else.  To do this, the person must be able to focus without getting distracted.  So, at the heart of the problem are two skills: working memory & focus.  Research shows that the Interactive Metronome (IM) specifically addresses both of these important skills, and children and their families frequently report improved social interactions following IM training.

Koflet, M.J., Rapport, M.D., Bolden, J., Sarver, D.E., Raiker, J.S., and Alderson, R.M. (2011). Working memory deficits and social problems in children with ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 805-817.

 

  • Here is an interesting study by Gilden and Marusich (2009) published in Neuropsychology that looked at the ability of adults with ADHD to maintain a rhythm with either a faster tempo (less demand on focus, self-control, and working memory) or a slower tempo (more demand on focus, self-control, and working memory).  Persons with ADHD had MUCH more difficulty when the tempo was slower, requiring them to estimate a longer time interval between beats, maintain the time interval in their memory, and restrain themselves from hitting too soon. This study, like many others, points to the direct relationship between timing in the brain and its command center “working memory.” Researchers theorize that Interactive Metronome is affecting this critical “control center” for timing in the brain and thereby improving many of the time-related symptoms of ADHD.

Gilden, D.L. and Marusich, L.R. (2009). Contraction of Time in Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Neuropsychology, 23(2), 265-269.

 

  • Have you ever heard that ADHD is genetic?  Ever notice that children with ADHD seem out of sync? Here is a research study by Nanda et al (2007) that supports this view and does so by showing that not only is timing in the brain disrupted in children with ADHD, but that it IS ALSO slightly disrupted in their siblings who do not have ADHD (when compared to children from families with no diagnosis of ADHD).  From this and other studies, evidence shows that the more the brain’s timing skills are off, the more symptoms like  impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattention, lack of organization, poor time-management, or difficulty with reading and other academic work are evident.   The Interactive Metronome is a relatively easy, non-medical treatment program for ADHD that improves the brain’s critical timing skills and is tailored to each child’s specific needs.

Nanda, N.J., Rommelse, M.S., Oosterlaan, J., Buitelaar, J., Faraone, S.V., and Sergeant, J.A. (2007). Time reproduction in children with ADHD and their nonaffected siblings. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 5

 

  • Timing in the brain is critical for good focus and self-control.  Studies like this one by Ben-Pazi et al (2005) show that the brain’s timing mechanism is not working properly in children with ADHD, and that it is even worse in younger children with ADHD and those who lack self-control and are impulsive. Interactive Metronome is the only tool available today to effectively improve timing in the brain.  By directly addressing timing skills at the level necessary for the brain to function more efficiently, the Interactive Metronome produces results. 

Ben-Pazi, H., Shalev, R.S., Gross-Tsur, V. and Bergman, H. (2006). Age and medication effects on rhythmic responses in ADHD: Possible oscillatory mechanisms? Neuropsychologia, 44, 412-416.

 

  • Children with ADHD are frequently impulsive.  Fortunately, researchers are trying to get to the bottom of this to determine the reason(s) why and what can be done about it.  Authors of an editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2006) remarked that watching the brain in action under MRI is helping researchers and doctors better understand the underpinnings of ADHD, or in other words, what is going on in the brain? Interestingly, the areas of the brain implicated in ADHD that are frequently targeted for study are ALSO part of the brain’s internal timing network.  Timing in the brain is known to be disrupted in individuals with ADHD & has also been implicated in the ability to control one’s impulses and behavior.  Interactive Metronome can be an important part of the treatment program for a person with ADHD by improving timing in the brain and addressing some of the areas of brain function mentioned in this article (i.e., working memory, ability to tune out distractions and pay attention to what is most important).

Casey, B.J. and Durston, S. (2006). From Behavior to Cognition to the Brain and Back: What Have We Learned from Functional Imaging Studies of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 6.

 

  • Did you know that listening and reading comprehension are linked?  And that both skills are very much controlled by our brain’s timing system that functions like a clock?  According to a study by Breier et al (2003) published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research (2003), the brain must process quite a bit of time-dependent information in the speech stream in order for a person to understand what is being said (i.e., timing of voice onset, voice offset, pitch, frequency, pauses between sounds, syllables, words, phrases, etc)  If the brain’s timing is off even just a little it affects how the brain perceives sounds, and this in turn affects how well a person can follow verbal directions, comprehend what is said, or read. Fortunately, we can help our brain process time more precisely with the right kind of practice and thus improve such time-dependent skills as listening and reading comprehension.  Interactive Metronome (IM) is a unique, patented program that has been shown in clinical research to improve mental timing through progressive, engaging cognitive and motor exercises.  Continuous, real-time feedback is provided so you will know each step of the way how you are progressing!  Studies show that by improving the brain’s timing with IM, auditory processing and reading not only improve, but do so significantly and in a relatively short period of time compared to other programs like phonics instruction.

Breier, J.I., Fletcher, J.M., Foorman, B.R., Klaas, P., and Gray, L.C. (2003). Auditory Temporal Processing in Children with Specific Reading Disability With and Without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  University of Texas, Houston. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 31-42.

 

  • Humans perceive time.  We use this ability to predict what is coming, to think about how we will react, and then to respond in a timely fashion.  It is well-documented that children with ADHD have an impaired sense of time.  Areas of the brain that control our perception of time are affected in children with ADHD (i.e., working memory).  In an article published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers found that children with ADHD who also have a Reading Disorder have even more difficulty with timing skills.  Research has shown that Interactive Metronome, a training program that addresses the underlying problem with timing in the brain, improves symptoms of ADHD and reading.

Toplak, M.E., Rucklidge, J.J., Hetherington, R., John, S.C.F., and Tannock, R. (2003). Time perception deficits in attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and comorbid reading difficulties in child and adolescent samples. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44(6), 888-903.

 

  • Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a noted expert in autism and child development/disorders, and his team of researchers conducted a study to see whether Interactive Metronome (IM) was a beneficial treatment for children with ADHD.  They compared boys who received IM to boys who received either no treatment at all or boys who only played video games to try to improve their ability to focus.  They found that those children with ADHD who received IM did far better than those that did not, with significant improvement in the areas of attention, motor skills, language processing, reading, and self-control (i.e., less aggressive behavior).

Shaffer R.J., Jacokes L.E., Cassily J.F., Greenspan S.I., Tuchman R.F., Stemmer P.J. Jr. (2001). Effect of Interactive Metronome on children with ADHD. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 155–162.

 

Attention

  • Because we are made with a “limited” capacity for holding information in temporary memory storage (working memory), we are also made to compensate for this by our ability to direct these valuable resources where feel there is the most need,  CAREFULLY SELECTING what to and not to pay attention to when we are engaged in any kind of activity.  Otherwise we’d have TOO much information, more than we can hold in this temporary memory bank.  This is called “selective attention.”  We must constantly, actively DECIDE what to pay attention to.  How well we pay attention determines how well the information will be processed and recalled later when needed (think of studying for a test then taking the test at a later date).  In this article, Chun et al (2011) show just how COMPLEX attention is and how intricately it is related to working memory.  When these two systems work in harmony, a person can more easily select information to pay attention to, process it timely, and tune out distracting thoughts and things going on in the environment that are not important at the moment (i.e., when studying for a test).  Interactive Metronome (IM) training addresses the ROOT CAUSE of problems with attention by facilitating synchronicity between centers of the brain responsible for selecting, processing, and recalling information.  Timing is everything!

Chun, M.M., Golomb, J.D., and Turk-Browne, N.B. (2011). A taxonomy of external and internal attention. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 73-101.

 

  • From birth, parents often recognize that their children differ from one another in terms of their overall disposition.  In this study, Posner and Rothbart (2007) explain how development of certain neural networks in the brain control a child’s ability to regulate emotions, control impulsive tendencies, and focus attention. The neural structures described in this paper are all part of the brain’s internal timing network (i.e., anterior cingulate, basal ganglia, etc).

Posner, M.I. and Rothbart, M.K. (2007). Research on attention networks as a model for the integration of psychological science. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 1-23.

 

  • Taub et al (2007) have theorized that Interactive Metronome, a patented program that improves timing in the brain, primarily addresses thinking speed and working memory, thereby improving our ability to focus and learn. In the study, they demonstrated that Interactive Metronome (IM) training has a significant positive effect on reading achievement (affecting 4 of 5 critical pre-reading skills) in elementary school students.  They proposed that IM training was primarily improving  “processing [thinking] speed,” which in turn improved the students’ ability to allocate resources for attending and holding information in working memory … all essential for fluent reading. Taub et al propose that the wide array of positive treatment results seen following Interactive Metronome (IM) training can be attributed to its impact timing in the brain and these two critically important skills, working memory & controlled attention.

Taub. G., McGrew, K.S., and Keith, T.Z. (2007). Improvement in interval timing tracking and effects on reading achievement. Psychology in the Schools, 44(8), 849-863.

 

  • To be successful in any environment, especially in school, a child must be able to remember the task instructions, stay focused and not get off track due to interference from outside distractions (noise, movement, laughter) or inside distractions (the child’s own thoughts or off-target behaviors).  Researchers are consistently finding that the amount of information a child can hold in his/her “temporary memory storage bank” (called working memory) makes the difference between being able to stay on task or not.   Apparently we are all born with a certain capacity for working memory, some with more, some with less, and in some cases individuals may not be able to efficiently and effectively USE the capacity they are born with.  According to experts, the amount of information a child can hold in working memory also depends on how quickly they can process information (thinking speed).  If a child is slower to process information, (s)he is not able to hold as much in working memory and is thus less able to direct attention to task and learn.  Hall & Blasko (2005) again demonstrate how important working memory is to higher cognitive skills like problem-solving, reasoning, and more complex attending (i.e., switching attention from one thing to another, focusing in distracting environments, or focusing on more than one thing at a time). Interactive Metronome (IM) improves timing in the brain, irons out the kinks in processing, increases thinking speed, and promotes efficient, effective use of working memory resources so that each individual can realize his/her innate potential.

Hall, M.D. and Blasko, D.G. (2005). Attentional interference in judgments of musical timbre: Individual differences in working memory.  The Journal of General Psychology, 132(1), 94-112.

 

  • A neural imaging study (Alpiner, 2004) found that individuals who received Interactive Metronome training demonstrated more efficient communication between these critical timing centers of the brain (i.e., the brain’s circuitry worked in a more effective, efficient manner which allows for better focus and self-control).  The brain requires efficient communication to function properly.

Alpiner, Neal. (2004). The role of functional MRI in defining auditory-motor processing networks. White paper presented at 65th Annual American Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Conference, Phoenix, AZ.

 

  • This study (Kane et al, 2004) is part of a growing body of research showing that if you work on improving working memory (the ability to hold information actively in your memory while thinking about it) and the ability to tune out distractions, you can improve MANY areas of performance in school like reading, math, organizational skills, following directions, understanding the teacher, and socializing with peers.  It appears that these 2 skills (working memory & controlled attention) are critical first steps to learning, academic, and social success.  They are the foundation for all of our skills in the areas of speech, language, thinking, and behavior.  They are also dependent upon a network on brain structures that perceive and keep time to the millisecond level.  If timing is disrupted, as it is in ADHD, Dyslexia, and other developmental and acquired disorders, then language-learning disabilities often follow. 

Kane, M.J., Hambrick, D.Z., Tuholski, S.W., Wilhelm, O., Payne, T.W., and Engle, R.W. (2004). The generality of working memory capacity: A latent-variable approach to verbal and visuospatial memory span and reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(2), 189-217.

 

  • Timing in the brain is critical for communicating effectively or participating in-group activities (i.e., sports, music, play).  Some individuals wait until just the right moment to act, while others have a tendency to “jump the gun.” This may manifest in a penalty for a false start if playing football or social difficulty if a person constantly interrupts others when they are speaking.  Miyake et al (2004) describe the neurological underpinnings of the tendency to make “anticipatory” timing errors like these in a paper published in Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis.  Once we’ve learned a task or situation, we tend to respond as if on automatic pilot (without consciously thinking about it).  But sometimes, something changes ever so slightly in the situation, and we must adapt and recalibrate our response.  How well we do this depends upon our brain’s ability to perceive time…even in small increments like milliseconds.  During the initial phases of Interactive Metronome (IM) training individuals with these timing-related problems often clap or move too fast (milliseconds ahead of the beat instead of on it), but soon become more in sync with the beat and with their peers.

Miyake, Y., Onishi, Y., and Pöppel, E. (2004). Two types of anticipation in synchronization tapping. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 415-426.

 

  • Again, researchers (Unsworth et al, 2004) demonstrate that the more bits of information a person can hold in their active temporary memory storage (called working memory), the better they can attend to details.  Think of working memory as a bucket that can only hold so much.  Some individuals are born with a smaller bucket and others have a larger bucket.  The bigger the bucket, the more water, or sand, or seashells can be collected (the better the focus and attention).  Think of the items collected as “details” (i.e., for following directions, for learning in school, etc)  Now, picture either size bucket with holes in it, through which the water, sand, or some of the smaller seashells leak out.  It doesn’t matter what size bucket the person has if there are holes!! (S)he will continuously lose or forget the “details” and therefore have difficulty recalling and following directions, etc.  To effectively treat a problem with attention, such as in ADHD, the treatment regimen MUST work on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the working memory bucket  (i.e., plugging the hole).  Interactive Metronome (IM) training works by plugging the holes so that information that is “collected” stays in the memory bucket,…THEN the individual can devote more of his/her resources to looking for even more “details” to collect (rather than worrying about what was lost)!  This frees up the person to focus and learn.

Unsworth, N., Schrock, J.C., and Engle, R.W. (2004). Working memory capacity and the antisaccade task: Individual differences in voluntary saccade control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30(6), 1302-1321.

 

  • Some of us are good at mental math.  Tell me a multi-digit math equation, and I can solve it without writing it down and looking at it.  Others must have it written down because they cannot hold onto all of the numbers of the equation in memory.  Now, add the DISTRACTION of someone counting aloud or calling out random numbers while YOU are trying to remember the equation in your head to solve it (without those “other” numbers interfering with your memory).   This may just scratch the surface in helping you understand what is going on inside the head of a child with ADHD. Distractions are part of life…they are EVERYWHERE!  Children encounter distractions regularly in the academic setting … from themselves, from their peers, from the environment.  Researchers Kane & Engle (2003) have continued to study how the brain uses its resources to devote attention where it needs to be despite the presence of distractions that compete for the brain’s attention.  They found that the better you are at holding information in your head in working memory without all of the “other” distractions interfering, the better you are able to focus and direct your attention to what is important and learn.  A great body of research shows that our “internal clock” is responsible for this occurring, and it must be “in sync.”  This clock is faulty in some individuals, but can be improved with the appropriate training like Interactive Metronome (IM), the only training program that improves timing in the brain in an organized, systematic and engaging format.

Kane, M.J. and Engle, R.W. (2003). Working-memory capacity and the control of attention: The contribution of goal neglect, response competition, and task set to Stroop interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132(1), 47-70.

 

  • In this study, researchers (Kane & Engle, 2002) show that those individuals who can resist interference from distractions, information that is not related or important to the task at hand, are the most successful at holding information in their memory and learning. They show that for learning to occur, the person must be able to do 3 things effectively: 1) hold bits of information actively in memory, 2) update the information in memory as needed, and 3) PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY, direct attention ONLY to what is important!!!  How many children do you see these days that have difficulty with #3?  These 3 important learning skills are all governed by our brain’s “internal clock,” which researchers have shown is not operating appropriately in certain conditions, like ADHD, Autism, Reading Disorders, and Dyslexia. Interactive Metronome (IM) is an engaging, rewarding, and systematic program that improves timing in the brain, thus improving symptoms of time-related learning differences.

Kane, M.J. and Engle, R.W. (2002). The role of prefrontal cortex in working-memory capacity, executive attention, and general fluid intelligence: An individual-difference perspective. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(4), 637-671.

 

  • The ability to adapt to our surroundings is key to our survival.  We must constantly take in new information and adjust where our focus is directed in order to stay in tune with the environment whether in a work, social, or academic setting. In a study published in Brain and Cognition, Meck & Benson (2002) discovered that certain regions of the brain responsible for mental timing (AKA timing in the brain) are also responsible for our ability to focus attention and switch attention from one thing to another appropriately (i.e., stopping what you are doing to complete another task that needs your attention).  The same timing centers of the brain are also responsible for coordinated movement.  Ever notice how so many children who have difficulty with focus & attention also tend to be less coordinated?  Interactive Metronome (IM) is the only treatment program that systematically measures and improves the brain’s ability to keep time, affecting all areas of function that depend upon our internal clock: speech, language, cognitive, motor, and social/behavioral skills.

Meck, W.H. and Benson, A.M. (2002). Dissecting the brain’s internal clock: How frontal – striatal circuitry keeps time and shifts attention. Brain and Cognition, 48, 195-211.

 

  • Cognitive psychologists theorize that the faster we are able to process information (or think), the more intelligent we are, and the more readily we can learn and demonstrate what we’ve learned.  There are many recent studies that support this view, including this one published in the journal Intelligence. Each individual is born with a certain amount of resources for attending to and processing information.  How well a person allocates those resources appears to be a major factor in determining intelligence.

Ben-Shakhar, G. and Sheffer, L. (2001). The relationship between the ability to divide attention and standard measures of general cognitive abilities. Intelligence, 29: 293-306.

 

  • A person can only hold only “so much” information in working memory … here is an analogy: There are 5 babies in the bed.  Put another one in, and one of the babies in the bed falls out.  The bed can only hold “5” babies. Period.  This study by Kane et al (2001) published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology further bolsters the theory that our ability to focus and pay attention is largely driven by how many bits of information (“babies”) we can hold in our working memory without losing them in the presence of more bits of information or distractions (“more babies”).  Working memory is a skill that is dependent upon timing in the brain.  The better the brain’s timing, the better working memory can hold onto the bits of information and use them for the situation (i.e., learning) or problem at hand.

Kane, M.J., Blecky, M.K., Conway, A.R.A., and Engle, R.W. (2001) A controlled attention view of working-memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 130(2), 169-183.

 

  • Researchers like Pashler et al (2001) put a lot of time, thought, and effort into figuring out how our brain’s work, like “How DO we only pay attention to what we need to and ignore all of the other [distracting] information???” Apparently we don’t do this on auto-pilot, rather we must keep in mind the goal that we are trying to accomplish while at the same time sorting through information that is presented to us (when listening or viewing information), deciding to “keep it” or “toss it.”  As we have seen from other research, we must be able to keep up with the PACE of the information coming at us while fully utilizing our innate capacity & available resources for working memory (picture it coming at you on a conveyor belt…and picture you sorting it as fast as you can).  We now KNOW that there is a breakdown in the brain’s timing system in children with ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Dyslexia, and other developmental disorders that interferes with the smoothness of this process (picture all of the information piling up on the floor in a disorganized heap next to the conveyor belt because the child cannot keep up with the pace and/or sort it correctly)!!

Pashler, H., Johnston, J.C., and Ruthruff, E. (2001). Attention and performance. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 629-651.

 

APD

  • Individuals with language-learning disabilities show slowed or delayed timing in the brain (in particular in the brainstem), so that they are not processing the timed or temporal elements of speech quickly enough to decipher sounds accurately and comprehend what is being said (also called temporal processing).  Auditory Processing Disorder is at the heart of language-learning disabilities and is the leading cause of problems with learning to read and write.  But there is hope!!  Research shows that auditory processing (or the brain’s ability to understand speech & language) can be improved (Kraus & Banai, 2007).  Interactive Metronome training targets the underlying problem with timing in the brain.  Once mental timing is improved, the brain can process information in the speech stream more timely and accurately, leading to development of phonological skills that are so vital for auditory comprehension, reading and writing. 

Kraus, N. and Banai, K. (2007). Auditory-processing malleability. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16(2), 105-110.

 

  • In this study, McAuley & Miller (2007) show that we adapt to what is happening in the environment around us by either speeding up or slowing down so that we are in sync with everyone else or the particular activity we are engaged in.  Have you seen how some individuals do not seem to be able to do this effectively??  They are revved up and hyper when they should be calm and focused.  Or they are stooped over and appear as if they may drift off to sleep while everyone around them is actively engaged in activity.  These individuals are clearly “out of sync.”  The authors of this study discuss the importance of “temporal processing” or the brain’s ability to keep time to keeping in sync with people and events in our environment.  Interactive Metronome (IM) training teaches an individual to keep time in pace with his/her physical surroundings in an engaging organized sequence of exercises.  Timing in the brain is a foundational skill that once learned, leads to improvement in many other areas that depend upon the perception of time or “temporal processing.”

McAuley, J.D. & Miller, N.S. (2007). Picking up the pace: Effects of global temporal context on sensitivity to tempo of auditory sequences.  Perception & Psychophysics, 69(5), 709-718.

 

  • Phillips-Silver & Trainor (2007) found that synchronized movement to rhythmic sound enhances the brain’s ability to perceive timed and rhythmic characteristics of sound. Moving the body to a beat rather than just listening alone or listening while watching a visual display provides a stronger stimulus for the brain’s internal timing mechanism so that the brain can better perceive the temporal (or timed) information when listening (i.e., when listening to someone speak or enjoying music).

Phillips-Silver, J. and Trainor, L.J. (2007). Hearing what the body feels: Auditory encoding of  rhythmic movement. Cognition, 105, 533-546.

 

  • Infants, before than can speak, are exposed to rhythmic sounds in the form of music and song.  This research by Bergeson and Trehub (2006) shows that their little tiny ears and developing brains are already tuned just like an adult’s to hear the slightest changes in tempo, tone, and rhythm.  They discuss the importance of the brain’s “internal clock” as it relates to how infants respond and move their bodies to music and other rhythms.  IM providers who specialize in infant care and early intervention are reporting very good results when using the Interactive Metronome in the treatment of infants and young children who have developmental delays or disorders with improvements in the areas of: sensory processing, pre-speech/cognitive development, and motor skills.  Case studies can be found at www.interactivemetronome.com .

Bergeson, T.R. and Trehub, S.E. (2006). Infants’ perception of rhythmic patterns.  Music Perception, 23(4), 345-360.

 

  • According to Tallal & Gaab (2006), children that are language and learning impaired often struggle with understanding both spoken and written language (i.e., following verbal directions, understanding the teacher, reading, taking written tests) and have difficulty with coordination and motor skills.  Research shows that a problem with timing in the brain (referred to in this article as an auditory spectrotemporal processing deficit) may be at the heart of language and learning disorders by interfering with phonological awareness (or understanding of the sound structure of spoken words). Phonological awareness is an important and reliable predictor of later ability to read and is the focus of much research.  When timing in the brain is disrupted, children have difficulty keeping up with the pace of information in order to track and process brief, rapidly changing acoustic information in the speech stream and for coordinating the timing of muscles for coordinated movement.  This basic problem with timing negatively affects children socially and academically, but can be improved with Interactive Metronome training to specifically target and optimize timing in the brain.  Given the importance of timing to language development and learning, it is no wonder that so many children are demonstrating remarkable improvements in speech, auditory processing (comprehension), reading, writing, and handwriting by addressing critical timing skills with the Interactive Metronome.

Tallal, P. and Gaab, N. (2006). Dynamic auditory processing, musical experience, and language development. Trends in Neurosciences, 29(7), 382-390.

 

  • Have you ever heard the saying “timing is everything?”   Our brain keeps time – in microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours.  This time-keeping function is critical for all of our human abilities and thinking skills. According to research, persons with musical training tend to consistently demonstrate better timing and rhythm than those who are not musically oriented.  Children who play an instrument or are otherwise musically trained tend to also perform better in school, are focused, and complete projects on time.  Here, Eck & Scott (2005) discuss the critical timing skills involved in the perception and creation of music.  It is not surprising that musicians have better timing skills, and thus are more equipped to handle academic hurdles. Do you see the connection?  If a child is struggling with school work, to focus or stay on task, has behavioral outbursts, is impulsive, or has trouble staying organized or managing time … the brain’s clock may be out of sync and areas of the brain may not be communicating efficiently or effectively, therefore the child may also be out of sync with other people and events in his/her environment.    Interactive Metronome is the only treatment program that provides training and feedback in order to improve timing skills that are so critical to academic and social success.

Eck, D. and Scott, S.K. (2005). New research in rhythm perception and production. Music Perception, 22(3), 365-369.

 

  • Music research is full of examples illustrating the critical role timing in the brain plays to music and speech perception.  Music and speech contain multitudes of information that are precisely timed. According to Zanto et al (2005) and other researchers these timed elements must be parsed and yet also integrated together as a whole for a person to appreciate music or understand speech. It is AMAZING how complex the brain is and what is capable of.  We now know that timing in the brain also determines how well a person will be able to focus or pay attention, to remember and learn, to read and write.  It is just in the past 15 years that technology was finally developed to both “evaluate” a person’s timing skills and “improve” them. This patented technology, the Interactive Metronome, has helped many children and adults overcome barriers to achievement in school, work, or in the social arena.

Zanto, T.P., Large, E.W., Fuchs, A., and Scott, J.A. (2005). Gamma-band responses to perturbed auditory sequences: Evidence for synchronization of perceptual processes. Music Perception, 22(3), 531-547.

 

  • Timing and rhythm are present in nature everywhere. In normal development, our brains are tuned to be in sync with nature’s clock so that we can accurately perceive information and events in our environment.  Timing in the brain is critical for speech, language, cognition (thinking, focus), behavior, visual and motor skills (Mauk & Buonomano, 2004).  When something goes awry with communication between areas of the brain involved in this internal clock then academic, social, and/or language-learning problems become evident.  Imagine a brain with older “dial-up” Internet connections (poor, slower timing) versus newer, faster high-speed cable (faster, more efficient timing).  Imagine doing therapy that involves only sitting and listening or viewing information and how much LESS effective this is than incorporating timing, rhythm, and movement to an auditory beat in order to engage the brain’s internal clock.  There is a NEED to engage and stimulate the brain in a way that taps into the foundation of all skills.  Let’s get moving! Therapists who incorporate synchronized movement to rhythmic sound into treatment sessions using the Interactive Metronome, overwhelmingly report better treatment outcomes in a variety areas.

Mauk, M.D. and Buonomano, D.V. (2004).  The neural basis of temporal processing. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, 307-340.

 

  • “Time is essential to speech.” This study by de Cheveigne (2003) makes clear that in order to understand speech, the brain depends upon its internal clock (or what is known as temporal processing) to decipher at a minimum: 1) whether the left or right ear heard it first or which direction the voice came from,  2) pitch and intonation or WHO is speaking,  3) each individual sound within each word, 4) how the sounds blend together to make each word, including whether each sound is a vowel, consonant, voiced, voiceless, and 5) whether there are pauses between sounds and words that add emphasis or meaning.  When timing in the brain or temporal processing is off by just milliseconds, a person may have difficulty processing and understanding speech.  Interactive Metronome is a patented program that addresses the underlying problem in Auditory Processing Disorders, tuning the internal clock to the millisecond in order to more accurately perceive speech.

de Cheveigne, A. (2003). Time-domain auditory processing of speech. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 547-561.

 

  • Timing skills play a pivotal role in the development of speech production and perception, or the ability to speak and understand the speech and/or intent of others (Kello, 2003).  Not only must a child rapidly decipher the timing characteristics of each individual sound, syllable, word, and phrase in the speech stream,  but for successful communication to occur there must be precisely timed coordination between centers of the brain for language and cognitive processing or thinking skills and the muscles and structures of the mouth and throat (or voice box).   On top of that, a child must process and understand other information associated with what is said, such as demeanor of the person (Is he happy? Angry? Sad? ) or humor (Was he serious?  Or was he joking?)  Many children on the Autism Spectrum either don’t understand what you said, or don’t understand the unspoken social aspects of speech.  All of this depends upon timing in the brain!!! That’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time!  However, in normal development the brain’s “internal clock” functions very precisely so that children learn to speak intelligibly and understand you when you speak to them, including your mood and intent.   Interactive Metronome (IM) training impacts the very critical timing centers of the brain necessary for effective communication & social skills.

Kello, C.T. (2003). Patterns of timing in the acquisition, perception, and production of speech. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 619-626.

 

  • To understand speech, we must take chunks of information that arrive at the ears at different times and link them together so that all of the distinct sounds, syllables, and silent pauses become words & phrases & emphasis that hold meaning.  This is referred to as “temporal integration” because all of the information in the speech stream contains timed elements that the brain must continuously and accurately calculate in order to perceive them and attach meaning to them (i.e., did I hear “factual” or “actual” or did someone sneeze, “achoo!”).  In an editorial published in the Journal of Phonetics, Nguyen & Hawkins (2003) summarize our current understanding of the connection between a problem with processing the timed elements of speech for speech perception (a problem with timing in the brain) and developmental language disorders like Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and Dyslexia.  Researchers have found that children with these disorders tend to have trouble processing the short and rapidly changing sounds of speech that are occurring in milliseconds.   The Interactive Metronome program allows therapists to evaluate critical timing skills, and a millisecond score is produced.  Prior to this patented technology, there was no way to objectively measure this ability.  Following assessment, therapists can then tailor a training program to specifically target weaknesses in timing and rhythm.  By improving the underlying problem with timing (temporal integration), parents, teachers, and therapists report far better results from targeted therapies that focus on phonics, reading, writing, language, and articulation/speech.

Nguyen, N. and Hawkins, S. (2003). Temporal integration in the perception of speech: Introduction. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 279-287.

 

  • In order to understand what someone is saying, we first receive speech at the eardrum in a simple waveform.  This simple pressure wave is then transformed into complex multi-faceted temporal (or time-dependent) information that the brain must interpret in order to understand what is said, who said it, and whether the person who said it is happy, sad, angry, etc.  This study by Shamma (2003) outlines the process by which our brain “reads” the timed elements of speech so that we can communicate effectively.  If timing in the brain is off by even milliseconds, this process does not work properly and an Auditory Processing Disorder and/or Language-Learning Disorder results.  Interactive Metronome is becoming a standard of care in the treatment of these disorders by addressing & improving the underlying problem with timing in the brain.  Visit www.interactivemetronome.com to read case examples and additional research.

Shamma, S. (2003). Physiological foundations of temporal integration in the perception of speech.  Journal of Phonetics, 31, 495-501.

 

  • Hirsh & Watson (1996) point out that after studying pitch, frequency, and other aspects of speech for so long, researchers are now much more interested in learning about the underpinnings of our ability to understand speech in the first place.  They are now very interested in learning more about the brain’s internal clock and how the brain breaks down information in the speech signal into various timed elements to perceive and comprehend what is being said.  They realize that the brain’s ability to keep and measure time is vital for effective speech, language & cognitive skills (like focus and attention, thinking speed).  In the past 10-15 years, there has been an explosion of research examining not only how the brain keeps time, but what mechanisms and structures of the brain are involved. Interactive Metronome is patented technology that both measures and improves timing in the brain, which experts now know is critical to academic, cognitive, behavioral, and motor performance.

Hirsh, I.J. & Watson, C.S. (1996). Auditory psychophysics and perception. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 461-484.

 

Autism

  • Researchers (Nicholas et al, 2007) are asking whether genes responsible for timing in the brain are in some way flawed in children with Autism (including High Functioning Autism and Aspergers).  Individuals on the Autism Spectrum display a significant number of symptoms that show timing in the brain is severely disrupted, from difficulty with sleep to the brain’s ability to process information, to attention or the ability to switch from focusing on one thing to another (they often become fixated), to communicating & reciprocating  in conversation, to sensory processing and integration, to motor coordination (including the muscles for vision and visual perception). The authors found that there is indeed a case to be made that “clock genes” are involved, however they urge further research.  More and more professionals are including Interactive Metronome in their comprehensive treatment programs for children on the Autism Spectrum in order to improve the timing skills that are critical for development of speech & language, cognitive, social, and motor skills.

Nicholas, B., Rudrasingham, V., Nash, S., Kirov, G., Own, M.J., and Wimpory, D.C. (2007). Association of Per1 and Npas2 with autistic disorder: Support for the clock genes/social timing hypothesis. Molecular Psychiatry, 12, 581-592.

 

  • There is still controversy over whether Autism Spectrum Disorders result from some interaction with environment after birth (i.e., toxic exposures, immune-modulation post-vaccination, etc) or whether they result from genetic defect(s).  Some would argue both are contributing factors, that certain individuals are born with a genetic predisposition and that exposure(s) in the environment turn on or off certain genes that may contribute to the development of Autism Spectrum Disorders. In this study, researchers provide a strong argument for a genetic defect in the “clock genes,” genes that control our perception of time and with genes for a process called “methylation” that controls the turning on and off of our genes or how they are expressed (ultimately how they control our abilities).  Individuals on the Autism Spectrum demonstrate numerous symptoms resulting from an impaired perception of time from circadian rhythm (sleep/wake/appetite) to millisecond timing required for speech-language, social/behavioral, cognitive, motor, and visual skills.  The Interactive Metronome (IM) is a training program that is administered under the guidance of a certified professional.  It is designed to improve the basic timing skills necessary for development of speech, language, cognitive, and motor skills.  Many parents and professionals also report decrease in aggressive behavior, improved social skills, and better sensory processing following IM training.

Wimpory, D. (2002). Social timing clock genes and autism: A new hypothesis. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 46(4), 352-358.

 

Brain Injury

  • Here is an interesting study by Mantyla et al (2007). Ever notice how some individuals have difficulty following through with tasks if there is too much time delay between getting the “instructions” and the time frame in which the task is to be completed.  This important skill depends upon timing in the brain. For example, a friend may call and say “In 30 minutes, Jane, meet me in the lobby of your apartment building.  I will be waiting there to  drive you to your doctor appointment.” …tick…tick….tick… The brain relies upon an internal network of structures that work in synchrony to keep time.  Individuals have the ability to estimate time in their head and are usually pretty accurate, so this would not be too tall an order for some.  However, if this “internal clock network” is out of sync due to developmental disorder (ADHD, Dyslexia) or injury (Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke), then the individual will be more prone to distraction and forgetting, being late, or appearing as though (s)he has difficulty remembering or following directions!! This individual will also tend to rely much more heavily on looking at a clock to keep track of time (an external timing source) to make up for what the brain is unable to do on its own.  It’s all a matter of timing!  Interactive Metronome training is an effective method for training or retraining the brain to keep time.  Once areas of the brain for timing are communicating with one another again in a synchronized fashion, individuals often show significant improvement in time management, organization skills like planning, anticipating, and sequencing, memory, and ability to follow directions.

Mantyla, T., Carelli, M.G., and Forman, H. (2007). Time monitoring and executive functioning in children and adults. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96, 1-19.

 

  • The front portion of the brain, or frontal lobes, are particularly vulnerable to damage during accidents.  Individuals with traumatic brain injury frequently have what is called a “frontal lobe injury.”  This is significant because this area of the brain is responsible for so many important skills for successful community reintegration: our personality and mood, our ability to plan and organize events, to manage and monitor time, to focus our attention and problem-solve, to sequence and coordinate motor movements, and the list goes on and on.  These skills also all depend upon timing in the brain, timing for when to say something or when to keep silent, for anticipating the amount of time it will take to accomplish a task or to get somewhere, for knowing how much time you’ve just spent on a project, or the minute neural timing that we don’t think about at all when we move our arm to pick up a glass of water. Scientists have discovered that the frontal lobes, in particular the middle and right side, are responsible for so many of our skills that depend upon timing (Pictno et al, 2006).  We often see impairment in the above-listed time-dependent skills due to damage to this part of the brain following traumatic brain injury.  Many traditional therapies focus on teaching the person with traumatic brain injury to “compensate” for deficits in attention, organization, planning, problem-solving, and coordination.  Interactive Metronome (IM) training, however, offers hope for recovery by addressing the underlying problem in “frontal lobe injuries,” a problem with timing in the brain, thereby improving cognitive, behavioral, and motor skills.

Pictno, T.W., Stuss, D.T., Shallice, T., Alexander, M.P., and Gillingham, S. (2006). Keeping time: Effects of focal frontal lesions. Neuropsychologia, 44, 1195-1209.

 

  • We all have an “internal clock” that governs how quickly our brain can register and interpret information (cognitive speed), our ability to stay focused and pay attention, to sort through information and key in on what is important, to hold bits of important information in memory, and to recall information after minutes or hours or days (conversations, whether medications were taken or not, where the car is parked).  Scientists think the “internal clock” begins to slow down as we age and that it continues to slow down the older we get.  This, in turn, negatively affects a person’s mental speed and sharpness, ability to focus and attend especially when there is a lot going on at the same time, and to remember daily events and interactions (i.e., “senior moments”).  In this interesting study, Pouthas and Perbal (2004) show that this IS indeed the case.  The brain’s clock DOES slow down more and more as we age.  Interactive Metronome is a mental fitness program that helps to restore the brain’s “clock speed.” It involves the completion of simple & engaging exercises that encourage the body to move to a steady beat while receiving feedback for timing.  This feedback promotes faster, more synchronized timing in the brain and thus faster thinking or cognitive speed, better focus, and memory.

Pouthas, V. and Perbal, S. (2004). Time perception depends on accurate clock mechanisms as well as unimpaired attention and memory processes. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 367-385.

 

  • Timing in the brain is essential for us to anticipate how much time it will take to complete a task or to go back and figure out how much time it took to complete at task, after the fact (Zakay & Block, 2004).  In many conditions (i.e., ADHD and Traumatic Brain Injury), the ability to “manage” time is impaired because the underlying process of timing in the brain is disrupted. Scientists have devoted much effort to studying the brain’s clock, finding that MANY areas of the brain are involved, and that each must work in a synchronized fashion with one another to get the job done. The connections between these areas of the brain can be likened to the internet with some individuals having older, slower dial-up connections versus newer, faster high-speed cable connections.  Try downloading a document (or think of trying to recall something from memory) with dial-up versus high-speed cable!!  Which person do you think will be able to keep up with the pace of the world around him, to effectively process and recall information – the one with dial-up? Or the one with high-speed cable?   While there are many therapies available to treat the symptoms in ADHD and Traumatic Brain Injury, there is only one that addresses this neural network for timing in the brain.  That is the Interactive Metronome, a patented, engaging program that challenges a person to synchronize his/her movements with a steady beat.  Auditory-visual guidance is provided to help the person adjust his/her timing  - with repetitive practice, mental timing skills improve (upgrading the system to high-speed cable), and so do the abilities that rely upon timing (cognitive speed, attention, memory, learning, and motor skills like coordination and handwriting).

Zakay, D. & Block, R.A. (2004). Prospective and retrospective duration judgments: An executive-control perspective, Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 319-328.

 

  • This study by Palladino et al (2003) helps us understand the vital role of working memory and how timing is the key to brain fitness! Think of working memory as the “gait-keeper” for information that comes into the brain… it is responsible for sorting through it all, keeping ONLY what is important to the task at hand, discarding all the rest.  Working memory is very “active.”  It continually updates the information it holds as newer, more relevant information becomes available, like saving over an older file in the computer.  If this “gait-keeping mechanism” fails to do its job and lets too much information in, then the whole system gets bogged down with TOO MUCH INFORMATION!! It then works very inefficiently.  Welcome to the brain of a person with ADHD or Traumatic Brain Injury!  Working memory controls many aspects of thinking like how fast we process information (thinking speed), how well we focus and concentrate (attention), and how well we remember and learn (memory).  For all of these cognitive processes to work smoothly, the brain must be able to sort through information first and foremost and tune out distractions!!  Researchers consistently find that working memory relies upon precise timing in the brain to perform this sorting job.  If timing in the brain is disrupted (or the network of brain structures involved in mental timing are not working in sync with one another), problems with thinking speed, attention, and memory or learning result.    The Interactive Metronome (IM) is a training program that both measures and improves timing in the brain through structured exercises performed to a steady beat.  A patented visual-auditory guidance system helps the individual gradually improve his/her timing skills and thus the mental skills that depend upon timing in the brain: working memory, cognitive speed, attention, and memory.

Palladino, P., Mammarella, N., and Vecchia, T. (2003). Modality-specific effects in inhibitory mechanisms: The interaction of peripheral and central components in working memory.  Brain and Cognition, 53, 263-267.

 

Dyslexia

Kevin McGrew, PhD, Director of the Institute of Applied Psychometrics and critical member of the Interactive Metronome Scientific Advisory Board, has compiled a bibliography of references for research on dyslexia.  Please use this link to access the list.

Kevin McGrew. (2007). "Temporal processing" and "dyslexia" keyword matches in IAP (www.iapsychy.com) Reference Database

 

  • This study by Boets et al (2007) shows that the cause of dyslexia, like autism, cannot be determined that readily… there is just no simple answer to a complex problem. Their research shows that some individuals with dyslexia have difficulty with basic processing of time-sensitive information in the speech stream (“auditory temporal processing”) leading to a problem with phonological processing.  While Boets and his colleagues did show that pre-literacy skills (or the ability to go on and learn to read and write) likely results from an underlying problem with phonological processing in some individuals, they also identified that this cannot be the sole cause in all cases of dyslexia and may just be a piece of the overall puzzle.  They also found that some of the children with this same phonological processing disorder did not go on to develop literacy problems or dyslexia.   Other children with relatively good phonological processing skills went on to develop dyslexia.  In some of these children, a specific visual dysfunction was diagnosed (visual magnocellular processing). The bottom line appears to be that more research is needed and that it should focus on multi-factorial causes of dyslexia, rather than trying to find a single cause.  This also illustrates that no single treatment for dyslexia is likely to be beneficial for all of those who are diagnosed with it!! Interactive Metronome (IM) may be an important part of the overall treatment for individuals with dyslexia who demonstrate difficulty with phonological processing by addressing “auditory temporal processing,” or the speed with which the brain can register, interpret, store, and retrieve information originating through the auditory channel.  Phonological skills and reading have repeatedly been shown to improve following IM training. 

Boets, B., Wouters, J, van Wieringen, A, and Ghesquiere, P. (2007). Auditory processing, speech perception and phonological ability in pre-school children at high-risk for dyslexia: A longitudinal study of the auditory temporal processing theory. Neuropsychologia, 45, 1608-1620.

 

  • Haslum & Miles (2007) took a look at how many children with dyslexia also have problems with motor skills, such as poor balance.  To do so, they tested 12,950 children with dyslexia using five tests of motor performance: (a) balancing on one leg, (b) throwing a ball in the air, clapping and catching it, (c) walking backwards, (d) sorting matches and (e) graphaesthesia (recognizing shapes drawn on the palm of the hand). Of all the children tested, 35.3% failed one motor test and 16.4% failed more than one. This means that 51.7% of children with dyslexia also had difficulty with motor skills (coordination, balance). Therapists often remark that many children with developmental disorders affecting cognition (thinking skills, reading, learning) also demonstrate difficulty with handwriting, coordination, and balance.  Here is some validation for their observations!! At the very foundation of thinking and motor skills is timing in the brain, more specifically synchronized timing of neural transmissions between centers of the brain that are part of a neural network governing thinking and moving.  In order to effectively address dyslexia at its root, professionals must address mental timing skills as part of their therapy regimen.  Interactive Metronome (IM) is a patented training program for improving mental timing, or synchronization between centers of the brain responsible for cognitive and motor skills.

Haslum, M.N. & Miles, T.R. (2007) Motor performance and dyslexia in a national cohort of 10-year-old children. Dyslexia, 13, 257-275.

 

  • Professionals who incorporate timing and rhythm into the treatment of dyslexia and other speech/language and learning disorders via synchronized metronome tapping, Interactive Metronome, music, singing, drumming, or other method report it to be beneficial.  Here is a really interesting article about how the brains of individuals with dyslexia are organized differently when compared to children who are good readers and spellers.  They also explained how this contributes to a breakdown in mental timing or what is known in the research world as “temporal processing” based upon what they’ve learned from fMRI studies.  What is so encouraging is that after they provided a specific treatment where the children were taught the code for connecting letters and sounds with an emphasis on timing, they rescanned the brains and found the brain had made more normal connections. “Following the treatment, the fMRI scans showed that the patterns of temporal connectivity in brains of the dyslexic children had normalized and were similar to those of the good readers and spellers.” Interactive Metronome (IM) provides not only a stimulus for timing but also feedback so that the individual can specifically improve mental timing (or “temporal processing”) at the millisecond level critical to speech, language, and cognitive abilities.  IM is a flexible tool that can be combined with any treatment program to enhance overall outcomes.

Richards and Berninger. (2007). Having right timing 'connections' in brain is key to overcoming dyslexia. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Back to Eurek Alert.

 

  • The ability to perceive speech early in life appears to have a great impact on later ability to read and spell.  As we’ve seen in other studies, the brain is flexible and can be molded if given the right intervention to correct a defect or strengthen an area of ability.  In the case of dyslexia, researchers have shown that “temporal processing” (or timing in the brain) is significantly impaired and this affects speech discrimination and listening comprehension, which in turn affects reading, spelling, language development, and learning.  They showed that when the timing (or “temporo-spectral characteristics”) of speech was manipulated in a daily, intensive treatment regimen of auditory exercises, individuals with dyslexia improved significantly in their ability to understand speech. Other researchers then took this a step further and studied the brains of persons with dyslexia under fMRI before and after this intervention and found that indeed their brains showed functional reorganization as a result of neuroplasticity!  Our brains are flexible and can overcome problems like dyslexia with the right treatment. The authors of this study (Santos et al., 2007) demonstrated that a problem with pitch-perception may also contribute to deficient phonological representations in dyslexics that may, in turn, lead to impaired development of reading skills. 

Santos, A., Joly-Pottuz, B., Moreno, S., Habib, M., and Besson, M. (2007). Behavioural and event-related potentials evidence for pitch discrimination deficits in dyslexic children: Improvement after intensive phonic intervention. Neuropsychologia, 45, 1080-1090.

 

  • It is widely known that children with developmental dyslexia do not perceive auditory timing and rhythm cues in speech as well as typically developing children (i.e., when emphasis is placed on syllables or pauses are inserted to change the meaning of the message). In this interesting study by Thomson et al (2006), the authors investigated whether this problem with timing and rhythm was specific to speech or whether this problem with perceiving timing and rhythm was more generalized, affecting learning and literacy skills.  Another question they asked was whether these timing problems seen in children would also be found in adults who’ve received therapy or remediation services for dyslexia.  They found that there is a strong relationship (“coupling”) between auditory and motor skills, a finding that other researchers have also pointed out.  They also found evidence that the relationship between auditory and motor skills is linked to literacy (the ability to learn to read and write), even into adulthood.  Longer-term (“longitudinal”) research studies are now examining this issue beginning in infancy or early childhood to better understand this relationship and its effect on literacy.  This may ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment for children with dyslexia.  This is one of many current research studies that have identified a core deficit in mental timing (or timing in the brain) in individuals diagnosed with dyslexia.  The Interactive Metronome (IM) is a flexible treatment program that addresses the underlying problem with timing and rhythm with engaging exercises and measurable results.  IM can be easily administered and integrated with traditional remediation programs for dyslexia.

Thomson, J.M., Fryer, B., Maltby, J., and Goswami, U. (2006). Auditory and motor rhythm awareness in adults with dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 29(3), 334-348.

 

  • In this study, Edwards et al (2004) looked for differences in “temporal processing” (or timing in the brain) between children who were progressing normally in reading and children with dyslexia.  They found that 76% of the children with dyslexia had difficulty processing temporal information (a problem with mental timing or timing in the brain).  They also noted that the problem with mental timing affected either auditory or visual processing, but not both in the same.  The Interactive Metronome is currently the only program available for assessing and improving timing in the brain, thereby enhancing auditory and/or visual processing necessary for reading and writing.

Edwards, V.T., Giaschi, D.E., Dougherty, R.F., Edgell, D., Bjornson, B.H., Lyons, C., and Douglas, R.M. (2004). Psychological indexes of temporal processing abnormalities in children with developmental dyslexia. Developmental Neuropsychology, 25(3), 321-354.

 

  • As some researchers have pointed out, not all individuals with dyslexia have a problem with phonological awareness (knowledge about the sound structure of one’s language), and some individuals who do have a problem with phonological awareness do not go on to develop dyslexia. While there is a definite relationship between phonological awareness (a critical pre-reading skill) and later development of dyslexia, this does not explain all cases of dyslexia according to Valdios et al (2004).  They propose that some cases of dyslexia may be linked to a core problem with visual attention. Others have pointed to potential “magnocellular temporal processing deficits” that may result in basic visual and auditoryprocessing impairments, linking the auditory and visual problems that some think are actually separate problems.  This is all so confusing for a parent of a child with dyslexia who is looking for the right treatment!  It is obviously critical for professionals to carefully evaluate each individual so that the appropriate intervention can be applied to achieve the best possible outcomes, i.e., to determine where the child’s strengths and weaknesses are rather than relying on any one theory about what may be causing dyslexia.  Interactive Metronome is a flexible treatment tool that can be used in the evaluation process to help determine where processing is breaking down, whether in the auditory or visual channel, and to address auditory (phonological awareness) or visual (attention, processing) skills while emphasizing the “temporal processing,” or mental timing component that underlies both. 

Valdios, S., Bosseane, M.L., and Tainturier, M.J. (2004). The cognitive deficits responsible for developmental dyslexia: Review of evidence for a selective visual attentional disorder. Dyslexia, 10, 339-363.

 

  • Researchers have identified that in some cases of dyslexia, there is a core deficit in the “magnocellular channel” of the visual system, which is responsible for rapid temporal visual processing.  They have also determined that in other cases, it is the auditory system that is the problem, or inability to process rapid auditory sequences (an auditory temporal processing deficit).  While some have argued that these problems are separate and not seen in the same individual, McAnally et al. (2003)  suspect they are and that they are part of a more global sensory processing problem.  They call for future research to more carefully evaluate whether these deficits co-exist.   At the heart of both problems is a central deficit in timing, or “temporal processing.”  Professionals who incorporate Interactive Metronome, a patented program that measures and improves timing in the brain, into the treatment of dyslexia and other learning disorders, report that the majority of individuals initially demonstrate poor timing and rhythm and that as timing and rhythm improves, so does attention and reading/academic achievement.  This has also been demonstrated in clinical research.

McAnally, K.I., Castles, A., and Stuart, G.W. (2003). Visual and auditory processing impairments in subtypes of developmental dyslexia: A discussion. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 12(2), 145-156.

 

  • Virsu et al. (2003) investigated whether problems with mental timing (“crossmodal temporal processing impairment”) present in young dyslexic individuals worsens as they age.  They measured “cognitive temporal acuity” … in other words, mental timing, …at millisecond levels.  They found that the temporal processing impairment worsened with age. They explained the worsening over time with the following statement: “…developmentally dyslexic readers appear to have, on average, a weaker than normal neuronal system responsible for processing rapidly changing temporal sequences.” With all of the research supporting a deficit in temporal processing in the majority of cases of dyslexia, it would appear that it would be essential to emphasize timing and rhythm in the treatment of the disorder. Interactive Metronome is an engaging technology that measures & improves timing and rhythm with an emphasis on all of the areas important in dyslexia: audiotactile, visuotactile and audiovisual.

Virsu, V., Lahti-Nuuttila, P., and Laasonen, M. (2003). Crossmodal temporal processing acuity impairment aggravates with age in developmental dyslexia. Neuroscience Letters, 336, 151-154.

 

  • Here is yet another study exploring whether a deficit in mental timing or timing in the brain may underly the problems seen in dyslexia (Laasonen et al., 2002).  These authors show that a temporal processing deficit has a broad impact on individuals with dyslexia, impacting audiotactile, visuotactile, and audiovisual modalities.  They also found that the ability to process time-related information in speech (“temporal acuity”) was positively related to phonological awareness in dyslexic readers.  As we have seen from other studies, problems with phonological awareness is not only a common symptom of dyslexia, but a precursor in many cases.  Research shows that following specific training to improve “temporal processing” or timing in the brain with Interactive Metronome 4 out of 5 critical pre-reading skills improve, including phonological awareness.

Laasonen, M., Service, E., and Virsu, V. (2002). Crossmodal temporal order and processing acuity in developmentally dyslexic young adults. Brain and Language, 80, 340-354.

 

  • Interesting.  You would expect that if timing in the brain or the ability of the brain to process the components of speech timely were the problem behind dyslexia, then talking slower or presenting information more slowly should help them better understand. Right? If processing is delayed, then slow down the information and voila (!) … better comprehension.  This is exactly what Rey et al (2002) found, lending credence to one of the predominant theories about the cause of dyslexia…that timing in the brain or what is known as “temporal processing” is impaired.  Research shows that the auditory system is malleable, or trainable, with the right kind of regimen.  Interactive Metronome is a patented program that measures timing in the brain and gives a score (in milliseconds), reflecting the efficiency with which your brain is processing or keeping time.  IM is also a training program that improves timing and rhythm through progressive exercises and real-time feedback for millisecond timing.  Research shows that millisecond timing is critical for auditory processing, speech, and language.

Rey, V., De Martino, S., Espesser, R., and Habib, M. (2002). Temporal processing and phonological impairment in dyslexia: Effect of phoneme lengthening on order judgment of two consonants. Brain and Language, 80, 576-591.

 

  • Neural imaging (with fMRI) allows researchers to look inside the head of individuals with dyslexia to see how the structure and function of their brain differs from that of people who possess normal development of reading and writing skills.  Some studies have shown problems in the posterior left side of the brainstem while other studies revealed problems with function in the front part of the brain.  These studies were conducted on adults and the results were then generalized to children, making inferences about how differences in brain function influence the development of dyslexia.  In this paper, Shaywitz et al (2002) decided to actually study the brains of a large sample of children with dyslexia using fMRI to determine whether these brain abnormalities seen in the adults were likely present in early childhood at the time they were learning to read and write or whether the brain abnormalities resulted from a lifetime of poor literacy skills.  They found that, indeed, the children with dyslexia exhibited decreased activation of the left posterior hemisphere of the brain during reading as compared to normal readers. 

Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Pugh, K.R., Mencl, W.E., Fulbright, R.K., Skudlarski, P., Constable, R.T., Marchione, K.E., Fletcher, J.M., Lyon, G.R., and Gore, J.C. (2002). Disruption of posterior brain systems for reading in children with developmental dyslexia. Society of Biological Psychiatry, 52, 101-110.

 

  • Hari & Renvall (2001) have proposed that individuals with dyslexia demonstrate “sluggish attentional shifting.”  They claim that this in turn affects the brain’s ability to process “rapid stimulus sequences,” like that contained within speech.  They go on to explain that once a person with dyslexia engages his attention, it is hard for him to disengage from what he is focused on and shift his attention to something else.  Ultimately, this causes a delay in processing.  If a person cannot shift attention in a timely fashion, then information will be missed. They discuss experimental data that backs up their theory. There are current studies that provide yet more information about the role of temporal processing (or timing in the brain, in particular millisecond timing) in attention, specifically for executive-controlled attention or the ability to self-direct attention.  The time-dependent skill of attention (better yet, executive-controlled attention) can be improved significantly with Interactive Metronome training, a program that promotes synchronicity and timing in the brain through progressive exercises that are motivating and engaging and real-time millisecond feedback for timing.

Hari, R. & Renvall, H. (2001). Impaired processing of rapid stimulus sequences in dyslexia. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(12), 525-532.

 

  • Many studies now show that there is a link between auditory temporal processing and dyslexia. In this study, Schulte-Körne et al (2006) show that phonological awareness is central to speech discrimination.  Speech discrimination in turn is critical for good spelling ability.  Previous researchers have identified this same relationship between phonological awareness and reading ability. Remember, phonological awareness is the ability to hear the difference between speech sounds, or the sound structure of one’s language.  This is a critical building block for reading and writing.  Researchers and professionals in clinical practice have shown that following training with the Interactive Metronome to improve auditory temporal processing, students show significant progress in the areas of phonological awareness and reading as measured with standardized tests such as Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, Test of Word Reading Efficiency, and the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement.

Schulte-Körne, G. Deimel, W., Bartling, J., and Remschmidt, H. (1999). The role of phonological awareness, speech perception, and auditory temporal processing for dyslexia. European Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 8(3), 28-34.

 

  • According to Farmer & Klein (1995) and other researchers such as Tallal (1984), a problem with hearing how one sound differs from another is at the heart of many cases of dyslexia.  Some go further to suggest that this problem is just a symptom of an underlying “auditory temporal processing deficit.”  What is this exactly??  Here is an example: As a teacher is talking to her students, their brains must process all of the rapidly changing acoustic variables of speech (voice onset time, voice offset time, pauses, pitch, frequency, amplitude, etc).  If there is any background noise (in the hallway, someone whispering, paper crumpling, erasers erasing, …), then their brains must ALSO filter out this information to focus on accurately processing what is said.  Each of our brains process time-related information...understanding speech is just one example of how our brain must do this.  If the child’s brain cannot keep up with the pace of information and process it timely, then an auditory temporal processing deficit results.  This then makes it hard to decipher what the sounds are or what is being said, and in turn leads to problems with reading and writing.  The Interactive Metronome is a flexible training program and is the only treatment that effectively addresses the underlying problem with timing in the brain.  Research shows that following IM training, reading comprehension & fluency improve significantly.  IM training is available in both clinic and virtual (home) settings.

Farmer, M.E. & Klein, R.M. (1995). The evidence for a temporal processing deficit linked to dyslexia: A review. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2(4), 460-493.

 

  • In this paper entitled, Dyslexia and A Temporal Processing Deficit: A Reply to the Commentaries, Klein and Farmer defend their 1995 paper which proposed that a problem with hearing how one sound differs from another is at the heart of many cases of dyslexia (in essence, a problem with timing in the brain).  If you keep up with dyslexia research, you know that there are many confounding theories out there and no one seems to have THE definitive answer for what causes dyslexia.  The authors stated “the three commentaries [following their 1995 publication] raise some interesting and provocative points about the temporal processing deficit hypothesis. However, after careful consideration of these points, we are not dissuaded from our original conclusion that the evidence available from a variety of paradigms is compelling enough to warrant further investigation into the temporal processing deficit and its possible causal role in a number of cases of dyslexia. In addition, the questions of causality (auditory temporal processing deficit → phonemic deficit → dyslexia, and visual temporal processing deficit → dyslexia) need thorough investigation, as does (do) the possible developmental course(s) of a temporal processing deficit in the auditory and visual modalities.” There is more and more evidence today that domain general functions like attention, working memory, and processing speed are dependent upon temporal processing, or timing in the brain, for efficient flow of information, processing, storage, and retrieval…all of which impacts development and learning.  Interactive Metronome is an engaging and motivating program that trains the brain to keep time more precisely, thus improving many of the symptoms seen in ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and other developmental and acquired disorders.

Klein, R.M. & Farmer, M.E. (1995). Dyslexia and a temporal processing deficit: A reply to the commentaries. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2(4), 515-526.

 

  • Due to the complex nature of dyslexia and its likely multifactorial causes, Martin (1995) advocates for a case study approach to research rather than looking at a group of individuals with dyslexia together.  He argues there are so many differences between individuals with dyslexia that it may be more valuable to study them one at a time, reporting data from each case separately.  What do you think?

Martin, R.C. (1995). Heterogeneity of deficits in developmental dyslexia and implications for methodology. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2(4), 494-500.

 

Executive Functions

  • “A number of studies show that there is a relation between intelligence and millisecond variability in timed behaviors.” Madison et al (2009) attempted to define the neurological underpinnings of intelligence, or how the brain operates.  They wanted to know whether lapses in attention account for the differences in cognitive performance between individuals or whether basic neural timing differences may account for it (in other words, this would be the variability in timing of electrical signals between neurons, which are the communication pathways of the brain that process incoming information and conduct our thoughts, emotions, and actions).  Based upon the results of their study, they argue that there are differences between individuals in timing in the brain that largely determine how quickly a person can process information and respond to it and that this ultimately determines their level of intelligence (or IQ).  The faster the processing, the higher the intelligence. Interactive Metronome is a brain fitness tool that is used in a variety of settings, including in the home, to improve timing in the brain.  It is “interactive” in the sense that it not only provides a steady beat to move along to, but it also provides real-time feedback telling you to the millisecond how close to or far away from the beat you are so you can make adjustments and get progressively closer to the beat.  In a comparatively short period of time (weeks), mental timing improves, along with a host of time-related abilities: attention/focus, impulse-control, organization, time-management, homework completion time and other routine tasks, memory, speech/language, and coordination.

Madison, G., Forsman, L., Blom, Ö., Karabanov, A., and Ullén, F. (2009). Correlations between intelligence and components of serial timing variability. Intelligence, 37(1), 68-75

 

  • According to Ullén et al (2008), there exists quite a large body of literature demonstrating that “coordination of neuronal activity in the millisecond range, within and between brain regions, is essential for a broad range of cognitive functions, such as working memory, perceptual binding and awareness, and attention.”  In this particular study, they provide further evidence that the timing of neural signals between & within areas of the brain is the basic foundation of intelligence.  It is not surprising that precisely timed and efficient communication within the brain is required for optimal cognitive performance in school, at work, and at play.  Interestingly, the researchers measured timing in the brain by having the individuals tap to a beat.  This is very similar to the Interactive Metronome (IM), the only brain fitness tool of its kind, designed specifically to measure & improve timing in the brain at the millisecond level that is so critical for our speech, language, thinking, and motor abilities.  IM training easily fits into your daily routine and takes only weeks to complete.  The most commonly reported improvements following this training to improve the timing of neural signals are: faster and better reading comprehension, faster and more accurate completion of work or homework, improved focus and attention, less distractibility, better control of impulses, better organizational skills, improved memory (especially short-term), and better motor coordination.

Ullén, F., Forsman, L., Blom, Ö., Karabanov, A., and Madison, G. (2008). Intelligence and variability in a simple timing task share neural substrates in the prefrontal white matter. The Journal of Neuroscience, 28(16), 4238-4243.

 

  • Here is an interesting study by Mantyla et al. (2007), looking at 3 basic components of executive functioning in both children and adults as they monitored the passage of time: 1) the ability to tune out distractions or information that is not pertinent to the task at hand, 2) the ability to keep up with the pace of information and retain the information in working memory necessary to complete the task, and 3) direct self to shift the focus of attention as needed.  Subjects had to simply indicate the passing of time every 5 minutes while watching a movie.    They found that those individuals who had difficulty with working memory,  either by keeping the task in mind (monitoring time) while engaged in another simultaneous task (watching a movie) or keeping up-to-date information in working memory about the task (i.e., recalling how much time had passed already) had the most difficulty with a sense of time.  They tended to be more reliant on external cues to keep time, such as repeatedly checking a clock.  On the other hand, those with stronger working memory ability were far less reliant on an external clock and were much more accurate in monitoring time “in their head.”  The authors did not find the third variable of shifting attention to be as much of a factor in task performance as the first two.  Working memory is a skill that is heavily dependent upon temporal processing (or timing in the brain) for efficient and accurate performance.  When timing in the brain is disrupted, as is often seen in ADHD, Dyslexia, and other developmental and acquired disorders a problem with working memory arises.  Researchers theorize that the Interactive Metronome addresses this critical cognitive function by improving synchronicity between regions of the brain that communicate with those involved in working memory.

Maytyla, T., Carelli, M.G., and Forman, H. (2007). Time monitoring and executive functioning in children and adults. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 96, 1-19.

 

  • Professionals who incorporate Interactive Metronome into treatment sessions to improve “temporal processing” (or mental timing) report improvement in language and cognitive skills that depend upon processing speed and working memory, i.e., following directions, reading comprehension, math computations, time-management.  IM researchers (Taub et al, 2007), argue that IM is impacting the brain’s ability to process information more efficiently, thus facilitating more efficient and effective use of working memory.

Taub. G., McGrew, K.S., and Keith, T.Z. (2007). Improvement in interval timing tracking and effects on reading  achievement. Psychology in the Schools, 44(8), 849-863.

 

  • In this study by Zakay & Block (2004), the authors tease out the difference in how we attend to & manage information in the brain when we are required to anticipate how much time it will take to do something versus go back and retroactively estimate how long it took to do a task already completed.  They found there is a different cognitive process involved in each.  Other researchers have discovered that regions of the brain involved in information processing for time-management are part of the brain’s temporal processing neural network (structures of the brain involved in mental timing that must communicate with each other in a synchronized fashion to operate efficiently and accurately). We often see problems with “temporal processing” that manifest as poor awareness of time, time-management, and time-estimation in individuals with ADHD or Dyslexia or following a Traumatic Brain Injury or Stroke.  Interactive Metronome, a patented treatment program that measures and improves timing in the brain, and thus time-related cognitive abilities, is an important part of a comprehensive treatment program for these conditions.

Zakay, D. & Block, R.A. (2004). Prospective and retrospective duration judgments: An executive control perspective. Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 319-328.

 

  • Palladino et al. (2003) studied 20 subjects to determine whether there was a difference in how the brain handles information when it is presented verbally versus visually.  They did find that there is a difference in processes involved in working memory depending on how the information is presented. Complex thinking involved in tasks like reading comprehension depend upon working memory.  It has been reported that working memory is very sensitive to intrusion errors (or corruption from information that is not relevant to the task at hand that enters the mix). Humans possess a very important skill called inhibition, which is the ability to filter information to only keep in active working memory was is important to the task and discard the rest.   Filtering may not occur if the person cannot selectively attend to incoming information, mentally manipulate information for comparison, and/or keep up with the pace of incoming information (slower processing speed).  Many studies have reported on the central role of “temporal processing” or timing in the brain in working memory.  Researchers who studied the Interactive Metronome (IM) specifically, a patented program that improves timing in the brain, theorize that IM improves timing in the brain by increasing the flow and efficiency of information processing, an important precursor to working memory function.

Palladino, P., Mammarella, N., and Vecchia, T. (2003). Modality-specific effects in the inhibitory mechanisms: The interaction of peripheral and central components in working memory. Brain and Cognition, 53, 263-267.

 

  • In this study, Whitney et al. (2001), show that individuals who perform poorly on tests of working memory do so because they are more easily distracted or think a bit more slowly when making mental comparisons (the ability to mentally manipulate information to make a decision).  They argue that mental manipulation is not the same as processing speed, or the rate that your brain can take in and understand information.  Others have reasoned that processing speed and working memory share the same mental resources and compete with one another, thus one influencing the performance of the other.  And so goes the world of research…there is always healthy debate and this is how we advance knowledge.

Whitney, P., Arnett, P.A., Driver, A., and Budd, D. (2001). Measuring central executive functioning: What’s in a reading span? Brain and Cognition, 45, 1-14.

 

Intelligence

  • In this larger follow-up study, Hembold and colleagues (2007) proved that there is a very strong relationship between higher intelligence (better performance on cognitive and motor tasks) and the ability to rapidly process information (or think fast).  They found that timing in the brain was significantly related to several factors that determine intelligence: speed, capacity, and memory.  In the clinical world, professionals who work with children and adults with developmental disorders and acquired injuries and illnesses see the connection between timing skills, thinking, and motor coordination as they perform the Interactive Metronome Short or Long Form Assessment as part of their initial evaluation of the patient.  This assessment provides several millisecond scores, which reflect the accuracy, efficiency, and synchronicity of timing in the brain.  The more that difficulty is seen with timing of body movements to the auditory metronome, the more uncoordinated and inattentive/cognitively impaired the person tends to be.  As timing improves, improvement is typically seen in a variety of different areas with the most common being: attention, organization, memory, speech/language, and motor coordination.

Hembold, N., Troche, S., and Rammsayer, T. (2007). Processing of temporal and nontemporal information as predictors of psychometric intelligence. Journal of Personality, 75(5), 985-1006.

 

  • Cognitive psychologists, including Chabris (2006), are reporting evidence that “general intelligence,” or attention, memory, thinking, language…, depends largely upon how quickly and efficiently our brain can process information.  When speaking, listening, reading, remembering, etc brain structures communicate with one another via neural oscillations, or signals, in the millisecond range.  Due to heredity, illness, or injury, these neural connections can be slow or inefficient.  The Interactive Metronome is an engaging and rewarding training program that increases the speed and efficiency of timing in the brain, continuously measuring it and providing real-time feedback to the millisecond.  Timing in the brain is essentially the timing of these millisecond neural oscillations that are so critical for thinking and language.

Chabris, C.F. (2006). Cognitive and Neurobiological Mechanisms of the Law of General Intelligence. Integrating the Mind. Hove, UK: Psychological Press.

 

  • Here is another study showing the link between mental timing (“temporal information processing”) and intelligence (Hembold et al., 2006).  The faster you can process information, the more intelligent you are.  Each person is born with a certain potential for achievement.  This potential may not be fully realized when the brain’s clock speed is slow or areas of the brain are not communicating in a synchronized fashion.  Interactive Metronome training consists of performing movements in synchrony with a metronome beat, promoting synchronized, timed communication in the brain across areas critical for speech, language, thinking, and motor skills.  Immediately following each movement, audio or visual feedback is provided about how close the person was to the actual beat and a score for each movement is provided in milliseconds.  Over time, a person’s timing and rhythm improve significantly resulting in many cognitive and motor improvements.

Hembold, N., Troche, S, and Rammsayer, T. (2006). Temporal information processing and pitch discrimination as predictors of general intelligence. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(4), 294-306.

 

  • In the literature, psychologists describe two forms of intelligence that each contributes separately to our ability to perform tasks.  These are “fluid intelligence” and “crystallized intelligence.”  Whereas crystallized intelligence is the information and knowledge about things we have learned over the years, fluid intelligence is our ability to strategize and problem-solve.  In the example of taking a test, we would recall knowledge about facts and information we learned from class and from studying our notes to answer the test questions (crystallized intelligence), but we may need to answer the questions in a strategic way like crossing out all multiple choice responses that clearly are not the answer and narrow the choices down to the two most possible, working from there to get the correct response (fluid intelligence).  Stankov et al. (2006) studied the physiological neural oscillations (or rhythmic, repetitive neural signals between brain regions in the central nervous system) involved in human intelligence, or what we know is our ability to learn, access what we’ve learned, and problem-solve.  They discuss the importance of synchronicity in brain activity to intelligence and propose that the degree of synchronization in brain activity may account for differences between individuals’ cognitive processing abilities.  In a small pilot study completed in 2004, Dr Alpiner demonstrated under fMRI that individuals who’d received training for timing and rhythm using the Interactive Metronome demonstrated more synchronous activity in the brain when compared to individuals who did not receive this training. Other researchers (Taub et al., 2007) who studied the effect of IM training on reading achievement theorized that synchronized metronome tapping (via Interactive Metronome) increases the efficiency of the brain’s timing (or synchronicity of neural oscillations), thus improving the ability to process, store, and retrieve information.

Stankov, L., Danthiir, V., Williams, L.M., Pallier, G., Roberts, R.D., and Gordon, E. (2006). Intelligence and the tuning-in of brain networks. Learning and Individual Differences, 16, 217-233.

 

  • Do you know anyone with this problem?  Problem: Person has a goal in mind, starts to work toward accomplishing the goal, somewhere along the way seems to forget what (s)he was supposed to be doing or has gotten distracted with something else, goal is not accomplished.  In this paper, Chiappe & Mcdonald (2005) explain that working memory (or the ability to keep the goal in mind and pursue it while constantly updating information about the task in memory and tuning out distractions) is a determiner of fluid intelligence, or our ability to adapt, think strategically, and problem-solve.  If an executive function, which performs the role of directing our attention where it needs to be, is not doing its job adequately, then distractions can take over and lead behavior in a direction that is not compatible with the initial goal.  We often see this in individuals with ADHD, a diagnosis where there is documented evidence of impaired synchronization or timing in the brain. This may also occur after a traumatic brain injury or stroke.  The timing of neural signals or oscillations must be fast and synchronized (or efficient) for the brain to do its job effectively, but in some cases communication in the brain is out of sync.  When out of sync or slow, problems with attention, “memory,” following directions, and learning arise.  Interactive Metronome is a patented training program that improves synchronization and timing so that optimal performance can be achieved, whether at home, work, or school.

Chiappe, D. & Macdonald, K. (2005). The evolution of domain-general mechanisms in intelligence and learning. The Journal of General Psychology, 132(1), 5-40.

 

  • Fink and Neubauer (2005) showed that more intelligent (or “brighter”) individuals perform better on cognitive tasks for two reasons: 1) they have more capacity in working memory (the ability to hold and manipulate information in temporary memory storage) and 2) their brain can process information more rapidly.  They demonstrated that those individuals with higher intelligence, as a result of these two factors, have a tendency to estimate time much more accurately.  Researchers (Taub et al., 2007) theorize that “cross-domain effects” of Interactive Metronome training (or its effect on so many different cognitive and motor abilities) may be attributed to its effect on these critical skills: attention, processing speed, and working memory.

Fink, A, Neubauer, A.C. (2005). Individual differences in time estimation related to cognitive ability, speed of information processing and working memory. Intelligence, 33, 5-26.

 

  • Conway et al. (2003) describe in detail how working memory is at the center of “intelligence,” that it is tied to our ability to rapidly process information, and that its success largely depends on our ability to control and direct our attention toward information relevant to the task and away from distracting information that may interfere with getting the task done.  And , of course (!!), all of this must be accomplished while our brain continuously processes incoming information.  Essentially, our brains must multitask to be efficient and achieve goals.  Imagine a network that connects centers of the brain involved in this process.  Regions of the network ordinarily send electrical signals (at millisecond speeds) to other areas of the network via neural oscillations in a synchronous, repetitive manner to remember this, attend to that, forget about this, don’t worry about that. This network may have damage to some of the wires in certain places that slow down the flow of information, making the brain’s task of keeping up with information and sending information where it needs to go rapidly and efficiently impossible.  The symptoms of this would be inability to pay attention, slow to process information, slow to respond to questions, distractibility, forgetfulness, poor ability to follow directions, etc…. The Interactive Metronome, a treatment program that improves synchronicity and timing in the brain, has become a standard of care in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia and other Reading Disorders, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, and other neurological conditions.  By addressing the core problem of synchronization and timing, many of the time-related symptoms improve, like the ability to pay attention, remember, follow directions, and process information and respond more timely.

Conway, Andrew R.A., Kane, M.J., and Engle, R.W. (2003). Working memory capacity and its relation to general intelligence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(12), 547-552.

 

  • Have you heard all of the brain fitness buzz about working memory lately?  If one is to improve cognitive performance, whether for school, work, or personal achievement, one MUST work on strengthening working memory.  As we’ve seen with several other recent studies, Engle and colleagues (1999) support the view that working memory function is largely dependent upon a person’s ability to pay attention and tune out distractions.  In doing so, our brain must perform several operations simultaneously and efficiently.  Other studies have examined the neurological underpinnings of attention, information processing and working memory and have found them to be part of a neural network where signals are sent back and forth at millisecond rates.  A good analogy is a train station where trains are coming, going, parking, stopping, starting and tracks are shifting to and fro to allow or stop traffic at different places and times in a precisely timed way to avoid collisions or derailings.  Picture your brain doing the same…the neural oscillations or electrical signals are the trains, the neurons or wires that connect regions of the brain are the tracks.  There is a constant shuffle going on where signals are sent forth, held back, rerouted, etc and all in a precisely timed, synchronous way.  EXCEPT when there is a problem with the “track.”  Then the signals are not sent where they need to go or in a timely, organized, or synchronous way.  Symptoms result: inability to focus or attend, to follow directions, to manage time, to remember, to comprehend what is read, to learn, etc… The Interactive Metronome (IM) is the only program available that measures timing in the brain and improves it with progressive, rewarding exercises and real-time millisecond feedback for synchronization as the person moves his body to a steady, rhythmical beat.  Those who’ve completed IM training overwhelmingly report positive results with improvement in many areas of function that depend upon precise, synchronized timing in the brain.

Engle, R.W., Tuholski, S.W., Laughlin, J.E., and Conway, Andrew R.A. (1999). Working memory, short term memory, and general fluid intelligence: A latent-variable approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology, General, 128(3), 309-331.

 

Memory/WorkingMemory

  • Here is an interesting study on timing in the brain by Botzung et al (2008).  Timing in the brain (or what scientists refer to as precisely timed neural transmissions or neural oscillations in and between brain regions) is critical for humans to be able to store and retrieve memories.  As an added dimension, humans have the ability to think ahead into the future and imagine being there.  Their minds can also travel back in time to distant memories, which at times may feel like they just happened yesterday.  Researchers were curious about how the brain travels along this time continuum, or what brain structures are involved.  They specifically wanted to know whether the same brain structures and mental processes are involved in going forward and back in time. To investigate this further, they employed fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to look into the brains of several individuals while performing these mental activities.  They found that similar brain structures and processes are used in both types of mental time travel and that, perhaps most interestingly, our past memories and experiences allow us to project into the future to imagine events that have not yet occurred.  Some individuals demonstrate less ability or propensity to think into the future or plan ahead due to a developmental problem or brain injury.  They might be considered a little (or a lot) impulsive.  There may be safety issues (i.e., acting before thinking about what happened the last time they tried to do something particular!)  Interactive Metronome (IM) is a therapy tool that many professionals are now incorporating into programs for ADHD, Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, and other developmental and acquired disorders to improve timing in the brain.  IM measures and improves timing in the brain necessary for planning/anticipating future events and thinking before acting.

Botzung, A., Denkova, E., and Manning, L. (2008). Experiencing past and future personal events: Functional neuroimaging evidence on the neural bases of mental time travel. Brain and Cognition, 66, 202-212.

 

  • According to current research, individuals that have greater capacity for holding information and keeping it updated in working memory also have greater ability to focus and direct their attention.  Essentially, if working memory is functioning efficiently, the brain doesn’t have to devote so much of its resources to making it work. This in turn frees up the person to devote cognitive resources to other tasks.  Colflesh & Conway (2007) found further evidence for this, or what is called the “controlled attention theory of working memory.”  Not surprising, they also found that those with greater working memory capacity were also better multi-taskers.  Working memory, which is one of several brain functions associated with our internal mental clock, can be improved by addressing underlying deficiencies in neural timing  (or timing in the brain) with Interactive Metronome.

Colflesh, J.H. & Conway, R.A. (2007). Individual differences in working memory capacity and divided attention in dichotic listening. Bulletin & Review, 14(4), 699-703.

 

  • In time estimation, memory for past event durations is critical to our ability to judge the duration of events happening in the present.  We hold this information about duration (or time associated with various events, actions we have experienced) in a “temporal reference memory” so that our brain can compare: is this new event the same duration as what I experienced last time, shorter, longer?  This paper by Delgado & Droit-Volet (2007) describes the most current theories about how our brain keeps time (i.e., scalar timing theory, pacemaker-accumulator model).  Good reading if you are interested in getting to this depth about timing in the brain and how it is important for all of our human capabilities.  The authors show further evidence that our brain not only measures time, but that this ability gets better as we age (i.e., children show less accuracy than adults).  This is an interesting finding.  Normative data from Interactive Metronome, a patented timing technology that measures and improves temporal processing, shows that timing in the brain improves as we age.

Delgado, M.L. & Droit-Volet, S. (2007). Testing the representation of time in reference memory in the bisection and the generalization task: The utility of a developmental approach. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(6), 820-836.

 

  • There is much interest these days in studying children’s ability to estimate time, particularly those between the age of 3 and 10.  Why?  This research may help us better understand how the brain’s ability to keep time develops as the child ages, especially as children across successive age groups are studied and are compared to adults.  In this study, Droit-Volet and colleagues (2007) saw that younger children (around 5 years of age) had less sophisticated working memory capacity and therefore were more prone to errors in time judgment.  We do see this in reality, where younger children are less able to manage time.  It is definitely as skill that blossoms as the child ages, thankfully!!  However, due to developmental disorders, this timing skill does not always develop normally and some children have lesser ability to measure or manage time.  This leads to a variety of different presentations: reading disorders, speech and language disorders, hyperactivity, impulsivity, auditory processing disorders, etc.  Interactive Metronome (IM) is a treatment program designed to improve timing in the brain that is flexible and can be completed in a clinic with the guidance of a professional/therapist or in the home with a virtual coach.  Following IM training, participants frequently report improved performance in reading and other academic skills, more control of behavior and aggression, increased cooperation and participation, and further development of speech & language skills.  Interactive Metronome training provides the foundation of timing in the brain. It is most effective when combined with specific training to build skills that are developmentally lagging (i.e., intensive reading instruction).

Droit-Volet, S., Wearden, J., and Delgado-Yonger, M. (2007). Short-term memory for time in children and adults: A behavioral study and a model. Journal of Experimental Child  Psychology,  97(4), 246-264.

 

  • Here is another study, one of MANY,  that show a clear relationship between working memory and timing in the brain (Fortin et al., 2007).  Essentially, if timing in the brain is disrupted, then working memory does not work very efficiently or effectively leading to a host of problems at home, school, work, and play.  If you’ve been searching the internet for a program or treatment to address school performance, a developmental delay or disorder, or overall brain fitness, then you’ve surely seen all the buzz about the importance of working memory for cognitive performance.  Given the importance of timing in the brain for working memory, and thus cognitive performance, it is critical to assess timing in the brain to see if that is the root of the problem.  Interactive Metronome is a patented program that both assesses and improves timing in the brain, providing measurable scores each step of the way.  Persons may then derive more benefit from the various cognitive fitness programs available once his/her brain is focusing, processing information, and utilizing cognitive resources like working memory more efficiently and effectively.

Fortin, C., Champagnea, J, and Poirierb, M. (2007). Temporal order in memory and interval timing: An interference analysis.  Acta Psychologica, 126(1), 18-33.

 

  • In this study by Baudouin et al (2006), elderly individuals estimated the amount of time that elapsed in 2 different tasks: 1) producing an amount of time when told to, 2) copying an amount of time after being shown.  Steps were taken so that they could not count or use other strategies to track time. This study showed that performance was dictated by the individual’s internal clock rate. Some had faster clock rates; they tended to produce shorter time intervals (shorter than the amount of time they were asked to present).  This has implications for rehabilitation.  I can recall more than one patient that needed the tempo (or speed) increased when completing Interactive Metronome training as part of their overall rehabilitation following neurological insult (stroke, Parkinsons, etc) because they just could not slow down.  These individuals tended to be inattentive, impulsive, and exhibited memory and other cognitive impairments.  By starting at their internal clock speed (at at higher tempo), I was able to get a foot in the door and from there modulate them gradually down to a slower tempo or clock speed where they could function better & more safely in various environments with timing that was more in sync with their surroundings (i.e., for ADLs, ambulation, reading,  conversation, community outings, etc). Interactive Metronome is a flexible timing intervention that addresses the basic foundation for safety judgment and functional independence, that of internal clock speed or what is known as “temporal processing.”

Baudouin, A., Vanneste, S., Isingrini, M., and Pouthas, V. (2006). Differential involvement of internal clock and working memory in the production and reproduction of duration: A study on older adults.  Acta Psychologica, 121, 285-296.

 

  • In this study by Sayala et al (2006), researchers viewed the brain with neural imaging during a problem-solving task.  Even though the problem was presented verbally (and no visual information was supplied or used in the process), the person engaged several areas of both sides of the brain in order to solve the problem, including the visual cortex.  They also pointed out that working memory was responsible for maintaining and updating information about the problem to be solved and helped to serve in the capacity of a visual-spatial sketchpad.  Many studies now show that the ability to maintain and update information in working memory, while tuning out information that is not relevant to the task (intruding thoughts or external distractions), is governed by the timing of neural oscillations or transmissions (or what is commonly referred to as temporal processing).  Synchronization is the key to optimal timing in the brain.  Studies show that individuals with disorders like ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and Parkinsons tend to display deficient mental timing.  Interactive Metronome is a specific training program that measures and improves this synchronization through progressive exercises that fun, yet challenging while they engage the whole mind and body.

Sayala, S., Sala, J.B., and Courtney, S.M. (2006). Increased neural efficiency with repeated performance of a working memory task is information-type dependent. Cerebral Cortex, 16, 609-617.

 

  • For those of you who are now so intrigued with working memory that you want to go out and measure it, this article is for you!  Conway et al (2006) describe in detail what working memory is, the various ways it is measured, and the validity of each measurement tool.  The Interactive Metronome is a timing intervention that affects working memory and it’s close cohorts, processing speed and attentional control.  This is valuable information if you are considering a research study of your own on the effectiveness of the Interactive Metronome for reading achievement, relieving symptoms of ADHD, or some other application.

Conway, Andrew R.A., Kane, M.J., Bunting, M.F., Hambrick, D. Zach, Wilhelm, O., and Engle, R.W. (2005). Working memory span tasks: A methodological review and user’s guide. Bulletin & Review, 12(5), 769-786.

 

  • Fink and Neubauer (2005) showed that more intelligent (or “brighter”) individuals perform better on cognitive tasks for two reasons: 1) they have more capacity in working memory (the ability to hold and manipulate information in temporary memory storage) and 2) their brain can process information more rapidly.  They demonstrated that those individuals with higher intelligence, as a result of these two factors, have a tendency to estimate time much more accurately.  Researchers (Taub et al., 2007) theorize that “cross-domain effects” of Interactive Metronome training (or its effect on so many different cognitive and motor abilities) may be attributed to its effect on these critical skills: attention, processing speed, and working memory.

Fink, A, Neubauer, A.C. (2005). Individual differences in time estimation related to cognitive ability, speed of information processing and working memory. Intelligence, 33, 5-26.

 

  • In this study (Hall & Blasko, 2005), the authors show further evidence that the less prone to distraction a person is, the better his working memory will operate.  Why is this important?  Because working memory is linked to a whole host of cognitive abilities…it may be considered a gateway or bottleneck for higher level thinking, memory storage and retrieval, and learning.  Interactive Metronome is a timing intervention that works at the core of our thinking, at the level of attentional control, processing speed, and working memory…skills that are governed by our internal mental clock.  Training takes a comparatively short period of time to complete (weeks) and can be completed in a clinic setting with professional guidance or in the comfort of your home with a virtual coach.

Hall, M.D. & Blasko, D.G. (2005). Attentional interference in judgments of musical timbre: Individual differences in working memory. The Journal of General Psychology, 132(1), 94-112.

 

  • Our ability to control what we pay attention to, when, why, and how long has been given several names, including: the supervisory attention system, executive control, or the central executive.  No matter what it is called, researchers feel it is critically important to be able to focus and direct our attention in order to have adequate mental resources in working memory to perform everyday cognitive (thinking) tasks.  In this article, Barrett et al (2004) do a thorough job describing in detail exactly what is involved in both the attentional control system and working memory and how they influence how we think and perform cognitive tasks.   It is interesting how some researchers find this relationship between attention and working memory to be reversed, that greater working memory capacity enables the individual to focus and direct attention better.  More importantly, we can see from the literature that the abilities of attention and working memory (and I might add information processing speed) are critical good cognitive performance (i.e., academically, professionally, interpersonally).  The neural basis for each of these skills is “temporal processing,” or timing in the brain.  According to a mental timing theory proposed by several scientists, processing speed and working memory share a limited pool of cognitive resources.  When information processing is slowed or inefficient, working memory suffers and the person then has less attentional resources to devote to tasks.  After studying the effect of Interactive Metronome (IM) on reading achievement, Taub et al (2007) proposed that IM training increases our brain’s clock speed or temporal processing (the ability to process information more rapidly and fluently) thereby increasing the efficiency of attention and working memory. This in turn leads to better cognitive performance.

Barrett, L.F., Tugade, M.M., and Engle, R. (2004). Individual differences in working memory  capacity and dual-process theories of the mind. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 553-573.

 

  • Here again, Field & Groeger (2004) show the intimate relationship between working memory and timing in the brain or “temporal processing.”  In the discussion, it is noted that previous research has shown that when we hold AND manipulate information in our working memory (i.e., making a mental comparison or problem-solving) and we ADD an additional mental task to working memory  (or increase “cognitive load”), this new information interferes with the information being held in memory for the first task.  In this study, the authors show that when we simply HOLD information in working memory but do not actively manipulate it for a purpose and then ADD another mental task (again, increasing “cognitive load”), the second task information ALSO interferes with  first. When we talk about “interference,” we mean that information about the first and second task get confused with one another or that the second set of information causes some of the first to be forgotten or recalled inaccurately.  We see this quite a bit after concussion or traumatic brain injury where the person can recall the information, but the information gets mixed up. Here is an example: The person may be told at the same time that he has a doctor appointment on Tuesday @ 1:00 and a hair appointment on Friday @ 4:15.  He may recall this after a short time delay and intervening activity as a hair appointment on Tuesday @ 1:00 and a doctor appointment on Friday @ 4:15.  Interactive Metronome is a treatment that addresses the underlying timing deficit in working memory, improving the ability to process, store, and retrieve information more accurately.

Field, D. T. & Groeger, J.A. (2004). Temporal interval production and short-term memory. Perception & Psychophysics, 66(5), 808-819.

 

  • The rate & synchronization of timing in the brain have a great influence on our ability to control our attention, direct it where it needs to be, tune out distractions, maintain and update information about what we are supposed to be doing “right now” in working memory (“inhibition”), and, of course, make all this happen seamlessly without hiccups. In this study, researchers provided further evidence that working memory is central to our ability to function in the world and that it is greatly affected by how well we can direct the focus of our attention. Those that have more of a problem with focus have more trouble recalling information accurately or at all about what they are supposed to be doing at the moment.  Do you know anyone with this trouble?  It is quite common these days with the increase in childhood developmental disorders and the increase in Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion as a result of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interactive Metronome, a treatment tool that improves timing in the brain, is currently used to help children overcome learning obstacles and at multiple VA hospitals with our veterans who have difficulty with focus, memory and other cognitive difficulties that interfere with their functional independence upon return to civilian life.  We thank them for their service to our country and wish them all the best in their recovery!!

Unsworth, N., Schrock, J.C., and Engle, R.W. (2004). Working memory capacity and the antisaccade task: individual differences in voluntary saccade control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30(6), 1302-1321.

 

  • Palladino et al. (2003) studied 20 subjects to determine whether there was a difference in how the brain handles information when it is presented verbally versus visually.  They did find that there is a difference in processes involved in working memory depending on how the information is presented. Complex thinking involved in tasks like reading comprehension depend upon working memory.  It has been reported that working memory is very sensitive to intrusion errors (or corruption from information that is not relevant to the task at hand that enters the mix). Humans possess a very important skill called inhibition, which is the ability to filter information to only keep in active working memory was is important to the task and discard the rest.   Filtering may not occur if the person cannot selectively attend to incoming information, mentally manipulate information for comparison, and/or keep up with the pace of incoming information (slower processing speed).  Many studies have reported on the central role of “temporal processing” or timing in the brain in working memory.  Researchers who studied the Interactive Metronome (IM) specifically, a patented program that improves timing in the brain, theorize that IM improves timing in the brain by increasing the flow and efficiency of information processing, an important precursor to working memory function.

Palladino, P., Mammarella, N., and Vecchia, T. (2003). Modality-specific effects in the inhibitory mechanisms: The interaction of peripheral and central components in working memory. Brain and Cognition, 53, 263-267.

 

  • What we can probably say for certain is that the brain does keep time; precisely HOW it does that is still up for debate.  There are several predominant theories that are keeping many researchers busy!  Here, Rosenbaum (2002) puts forth yet another theory.  Have you read the literature on mental timing theory?  What do you think?  Regardless of how the brain does it, we know that a person can improve timing in the brain with specific practice.  Interactive Metronome improves timing in the brain through progressive exercises & feedback that can be customized to suit the needs or interests of the individual (i.e., practicing repetitive movements for self-feeding or self-care, or simulating sports or incorporating play). 

Rosenbaum, D.A. (2002). Time, space, and short-term memory. Brain and Cognition, 48, 52-65.

 

  • The human brain keeps time.  Time is essential for understanding & producing intelligible speech, focusing attention, for reading, writing and other academic skills, and the list goes on and on…  According to scientists, we must focus and engage our attention, control what we are focused on, tune out distractions, and hold & update information about the task in working memory in order for the brain to do the work of keeping time accurately. One of the predominant theories about how the manages time-related information is called the “pacemaker accumulator model.”  This theory suggests that our brain emits timed neural impulses until a certain number are accumulated (equaling a target duration of time, in milliseconds). Each time the brain handles information, the electrical circuits and impulses get to work and must do so in a very precisely timed, synchronized manner.  When a short-circuit happens or there is not the level of precise synchronization or coordination of signals within and between centers of the brain, it shows in our performance on mental and physical tasks (i.e., ability to focus, to understand and follow directions, to read, to spell, organize thoughts, produce language, and write legibly, and to coordinate motor movements for walking, running, jumping, climbing….)  Fortunately, timing in the brain is a skill that can be shaped and improved with specific training.  Key to training is “feedback” so you know what you are doing wrong and can correct it.  The Interactive Metronome is the ONLY brain fitness tool that provides feedback for timing in the brain each and every move, allowing you to progressively get more and more precise.  More precise timing leads to improvement in the problem areas listed above.

Fortin, C. (1999). Short-term memory time interval production. International Journal of Psychology, 34(5/6), 308-316.

 

Mental Timing

  • Here is another study, one of MANY, that show a clear relationship between working memory and timing in the brain (Fortin et al., 2007).  Essentially, if timing in the brain is disrupted, then working memory does not work very efficiently or effectively leading to a host of problems at home, school, work, and play.  If you’ve been searching the Internet for a program or treatment to address school performance, a developmental delay or disorder, or overall brain fitness, then you’ve surely seen all the buzz about the importance of working memory for cognitive performance.  Given the importance of timing in the brain for working memory, and thus cognitive performance, it is critical to assess timing in the brain to see if that is the root of the problem.  Interactive Metronome is a patented program that both assesses and improves timing in the brain, providing measurable scores each step of the way.  Persons may then derive more benefit from the various cognitive fitness programs available once his/her brain is focusing, processing information, and utilizing cognitive resources like working memory more efficiently and effectively.

Fortin, C., Champagnea, J, and Poirier, M. (2007). Temporal order in memory and interval timing: An interference analysis.  Acta Psychologica, 126(1), 18-33.

 

  • I like this description about timing in the brain by Dr. Penny Lewis (2006). “Time measurement [in the brain] is fundamental to almost everything we do:  music and speech, for instance, are just time-coded variations in sound, and movements are carefully timed contractions of muscles.  We perceive our lives as a flow of events in time, and plan our futures in the same way.  If our timing system gets damaged, as it does in patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Schizophrenia, and certain types of brain injury, all of these abilities can be impaired.”  Did you realize that mental timing was so important?  Why do we still conduct therapies without incorporating timing and rhythm?  Certainly, after review of the ever-growing body of research demonstrating its importance, we now know how important timing is to speech, language, cognition, and motor skills.  Surely, we will begin to incorporate the foundational skill of timing more and more into our interventions for children and adults who are seeking greater achievement, independence, and quality of life.  Interactive Metronome (IM) is a patented treatment tool for doing just that.  It has been successfully used with individuals of all ages, from early intervention with infants to treat hemiplegia, sensory, communication/language, and cognitive skills to geriatric patients with aphasia, decreased independence with self-care and basic ADLs, cognitive impairments that affect safety judgment, and increased fall risk.

Lewis, P.A. (2006). Emotion, memory, and the perception of time. The University of Liverpool. Unpublished white paper.

 

  • These statements were made by Lewis & Walsh (2005), prominent neuroscientists who study timing in the brain. “Our brains measure time continuously. We are aware of how long we have been doing a particular thing, how long it has been since we last slept, and how long it will be until lunch or dinner. We are ready, at any moment, to make complex movements requiring muscle coordination with microsecond accuracy, or to decode temporally complex auditory signals in the form of speech or music. Our timing abilities are impressive, diverse and worthy of investigation. But they are not very well understood.”  In this paper entitled, Time Perception: Components of the Brain’s Clock, they briefly outline the problems with identifying the exact mechanism for human time estimation.  “Regardless of their diversity, the models [or theories about timing in the brain] all agree that temporal information is processed in many ways: it is remembered, compared to other temporal information, combined with sensory information, and used in the production of motor outputs.” While we wait for neuroscientists to refine their methodology and identify the holy grail of mental timing, we don’t have to wait before we introduce the concept of timing into habilitation & rehabilitation programs for individuals with developmental disorders, acquired brain injury from TBI or stroke, or certain degenerative diseases.  There exists a growing body of literature describing the neural timing deficits in ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism, Reading Disorders, Auditory Processing Disorder, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s.  By addressing timing in the brain with Interactive Metronome (IM) alongside functional therapy interventions you are not only addressing areas of ability that impact achievement and independence but also the heart of the problem, that of deficient timing.  This can only lead to more efficient treatment and better overall outcome.

Lewis, P.A. & Walsh, V. (2005). Time perception: Components of the brain’s clock. Current Biology, 15(10), R389-R391.

 

  • Did you know that your brain has an “internal clock” that keeps time? And that it does so at various intervals: microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, minutes, and hours?  Timing in the brain (or what scientists call “temporal processing”) is responsible for detecting where a sound is coming from as sound hits one hear microseconds before the other, for waking up and putting to sleep our brain every 12 hours or so, and for focusing attention, reading comprehension, remembering information, processing speech and motor coordination (millisecond timing).  This information comes from a paper titled The Neural Basis of Temporal Processing by Mauk & Buonomano (2004), probably my favorite paper on human timing.  Having used Interactive Metronome (IM) in a rehabilitation setting for individuals with traumatic brain injury, stroke, and other neurological disorders for several years and now in the capacity as the Clinical Education Director for Interactive Metronome where I speak to other IM providers regularly, I often see the tremendous impact of IM training on persons with a variety of developmental and acquired disorders.  This study really helps us to understand why timing in the brain is so important to all of the skills we address in our therapies (speech, language, cognition, behavior, vision, motor skills, and sensory processing).  I strongly encourage you to read it. It will help you understand that timing is at the heart of virtually all we do.

Mauk, M.D. & Buonomano, D.V. (2004). The neural basis of temporal processing. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, 307-340.

 

  • In this 2004 issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Nobre & O’Reilly comment on an important research study by Coull et al. (2004) that showed involvement of the fronto-striatal loop in mental timing-related cognitive and motor functions.  This area of the brain has been implicated in the skills of sequencing, attention-shifting and decision-making, particularly under time-pressure, as well as the planning and sequencing of motor movements.  Here is yet another connection between thinking and motor skills…they appear to share at least some of the same neural circuitry.  Perhaps this, at least in part, explains why the overwhelming majority of individuals who complete Interactive Metronome (IM) training typically demonstrate improvement in BOTH cognitive and motor skills.  IM training involves synchronizing the body to move to a steady beat.  Immediate feedback is provided (audio, visual, or both) to help the individual improve their overall mental and physical timing skills that form the basis for speech, language, thinking, behavior, and coordinated movement.

Nobre, A.C. & O’Reilly, J. (2004). Time is of the essence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(9), 387-389.

 

  • There is a definite trend we see among individuals who undergo Interactive Metronome (IM) training, a program that improves timing in the brain or what is known as “temporal processing.”  They typically demonstrate improved motor coordination and ability to focus.  Most also experience other benefits like improved reading comprehension and fluency, less aggression and better self-control, more legible handwriting, etc.  This study may help us understand why we typically see improvement in BOTH cognitive and motor skills once timing skills are improved.  Rubia & Smith (2004) show with fMRI that both motor timing and the timing associated with cognitive abilities are controlled by the same regions of the brain, “suggesting that both functions are probably inseparable and mediated by common neural networks.”  This is a good read for anyone interested in learning more about the specific brain structures and “networks” involved in human timing and their relation to cognitive and motor skills. In many conditions, like ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, Parkinson’s, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, …we see that the person’s ability to achieve and be more independent is impacted by deficits in BOTH cognitive and motor skills.  Interactive Metronome, a patented treatment modality commonly used in therapy for these conditions, is the only program that addresses both of these skills simultaneously.

Rubia, K. & Smith, A. (2004). The neural correlates of cognitive time management: A review.  Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, 64, 329-340.

 

  • Here is another favorite of mine when it comes to papers describing the human clock system, How  Do We Tell Time? (Buonomano & Karmarker, 2002).  It is easy to read, a huge bonus (you know what I mean if you have been following this stuff!!!), and goes into detail about the various levels of timing in the brain: microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, circadian rhythms… The authors also discuss the various theories that abound such as whether we have a distributed network of clocks or whether there is one central clock that does it all.  All???  Right, the brain clock is intimately involved in our abilities to do the following: understand and produce intelligible speech (articulation, phonological processing disorders), read and write, organize our thoughts and communicate our ideas clearly and concisely (like I am doing!), attend to task, switch attention from one thing to another, multitask (mothers, you know what this one is!), sequence the steps to perform everyday tasks, listen to a class lecture and take notes, remember and learn new information, reach for a glass of water without knocking it over, walk with good speed, symmetry, and balance, and on and on… You might be asking by now, “What is wrong with my clock, with my child’s clock, with my significant other’s clock??” as you or they may be displaying difficulty with some of the skills I just described.  The brain’s clock can be disrupted (and the synchronicity of it can be out of whack) when there is a problem with childhood development (ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia…), injury to the brain (Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Aneurysm…), or disease (Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s…).  The Interactive Metronome is a patented, flexible program that improves timing and synchronization in the brain.  Professionals can easily incorporate IM training into treatment for speech, language, cognition, and motor skills (i.e., professionals in Speech & Language Therapy, Cognitive Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Psychology Services, etc). 

Buonomano, D.V. & Karmarker, U.R. (2002). How do we tell time? Neuroscientist, 8(42), 42-51.

 

  • Scientists agree that our brain contains a “clock,” or at least one, maybe more than one.  What they can’t precisely agree on, but generally seem to understand each other’s viewpoints on, is the central location of the ticker… Is it in the basal ganglia, the striatum, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum??? There are good arguments for each location, … perhaps they are all involved and work in a “network” of sorts or perhaps they are all individual clocks that keep time in our brain for various different functions … processing speech or music, coordinating movements, paying attention, etc.  Dr. Penny Lewis, in this 2002 article titled Finding the Timer, discusses new and important research by Constantinidis et al. (2002) that may help shed more light on the location and mechanism for mental timing.  Of course, more research has been published since then, but are we any closer to knowing??  Fortunately, we don’t have to know the exact location of the ticker to know how important it is or that we professionals absolutely must assess and treat timing in the brain just as we do the various skills that are controlled by timing in the brain!!  Interactive Metronome is an assessment and treatment tool that measures timing in the brain and improves it.  It is flexible and is ideally administered alongside other functional interventions to build and strengthen abilities.

Lewis, P.A. (2002). Finding the timer. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 6(5), 195-196.

 

  • Here is a novel research idea. Rao et al. (2001) examined the various areas of the brain known to be involved in mental timing under fMRI during a time-perception task to see how timing in the brain unfolded in a sequential way.  For example, they noticed that the basal ganglia lit up first and that it was uniquely associated with encoding time intervals.  Also engaged early in the process were other parts of the neural timing network responsible for attention and temporary maintenance (or recall if you will) of time intervals in memory.  Later in the process, as the brain compared current timing information to that from memory (is this the same, more, or less amount of time?), the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was activated. Also, late to activate was the cerebellum.  “Our results illustrate a dynamic network of cortical-subcortical activation associated with different components of temporal information processing.”  What does this mean?  Areas of the brain known to be involved in attention, memory/learning, and motor skills are part of this brain network for timing.  Timing in the brain, in turn, determines how well a person can focus, learn, and move.  Interactive Metronome is a patented training program that improves timing in the brain through a series of mind-body exercises that require a person to move to a steady beat.  Most critically, immediate feedback is provided after each movement to help a person know how far off the beat (s)he is and make corrections to improve timing & rhythm.  Improvement in focus, memory, reading, and motor skills occurs as a result of improved mental timing skills.

Rao, S.M., Mayer, A.R., and Harrington, D.L. (2001). The evolution of brain activation during temporal processing. Nature Neuroscience, 4(3), 317-323.

 

Motor Skills

  • Here is a fascinating study in Cortex that looked at the brain under fMRI while listening to rhythmic auditory sounds.  Bengtsson et al (2009) found that areas of the brain involved in motor planning and sequencing (or preparing motor sequences) were activated while listening to rhythmic sound.  Interactive Metronome (IM) training improves motor planning and sequencing (and thus motor coordination) through a series of progressive exercises that are synchronized to a steady auditory rhythm.  As the person performs each distinct movement, audio and/or visual feedback is provided in milliseconds to improve “temporal processing” for fine and gross motor coordination.

Bengtsson, S.L., Ullen, F., Ehrsson, H.H., Hashimoto, T., Kito, T., Naito, E., Forssberg, H., and Sadato, N. (2009). Listening to rhythms activates motor and premotor cortices. Cortex, 45, 62-71.

 

  • In this study by Jantzen et al. (2007), the authors identified that timing in the brain for motor coordination relies upon a “network of brain areas engaged to meet the specific sensory, motor and cognitive demands of the associated coordination behavior.”  While looking at the brain under fMRI during synchronous movement they were able to tease out regions of the brain involved in interval timing for motor activity and to show that information about timing from the environment (or context) influences internal timing for coordinated movement.  Interactive Metronome training promotes synchronization within this neural network for more coordinated movement through a series of progressive exercises that are performed to a steady beat.  Millisecond feedback for mental/interval timing is provided following each movement to help refine timing skills and coordination.

Jantzen, K.J., Oullier, O., Marshall, M., Steinberg, F.L., and Kelso, J.A.Ss. (2007). A parametric fMRI investigation of context effects on sensorimotor timing and coordination. Neuropsychologia, 45, 673-684.

 

  • Movement requires precise timing, especially that of athletes, musicians, and skilled workers. This article by Larue (2005) delves into the timing mechanisms within the brain that govern movement.  What I particularly like about this paper is its readability as I am not a neuroscientist but am keenly interested in timing in the brain and the interplay between temporal processing, cognition, and coordinated movement. The author discusses unique versus multiple timing mechanisms, learning timing, the contribution of movement-related feedback to timing, the contribution of attention in the learning of timing, and other important topics relating to how timing in the brain determines the quality of movement. This article should be of particular interest to anyone who is familiar with or uses the Interactive Metronome in the habilitation or rehabilitation of motor skills.  Timing & rhythm are essential to movement. 

Larue, J. (2005). Initial learning of timing in combined serial movements and a no-movement situation. Music Perception, 22(3), 509-530.

 

  • Most of the motor movements involving our arms and hands are bilateral, meaning they involve using both limbs together in a coordinated fashion.  Examples given in this paper are: typing, using a fork and knife, and buttoning a shirt. In this article by Ivry et al (2004), the authors go into significant detail about how the two sides of the brain work together to make this possible.  They discuss timing in the brain and show how thinking and movement work in tandem for coordinated motor movement.  Interactive Metronome is a unique training tool that challenges thinking and movement simultaneously as the individual synchronizes movements with a steady auditory rhythm.  Feedback regarding how close to or how far away from the beat is provided following each individual movement to help the individual refine his/her motor skills.  Research has shown that listening to rhythmic sound activates the centers of the brain involved in coordinated motor planning and sequencing.

Ivry, R., Diedrichsen, J., Spencer, R., Hazeltine, E., and Semien, A. (2004). A cognitive neuroscience perspectivce on bimanual coordination and interference. In S.P. Swinnen & J. Duysens (Eds.),  Neuro-Behavioral Determinants of Interlimb Coordination: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Chapter 9).  New York: Springer Publishing. 

 

  • This study by Lewis et al. (2004) shows that our brain learns then retains the temporal (or timing) information about particular movement sequences.  Once the movement is over-learned (or repeated to the extent we can do it without thinking) we can continue the movement on “autopilot” so to speak.  The relevance of the paper here is to point out, once again, that movement is governed by timing in the brain and that the brain can learn the temporal information necessary for coordinated movement.  Interactive Metronome can be easily integrated into habilitation/rehabilitation programs to provide this learning opportunity through exercises requiring synchronization of movement with auditory rhythm (and of course, feedback for timing!).

Lewis, P.A., Wing, A.M., Pope, P.A. Praamstra, P., and Miall, R.C. (2004). Brain activity correlates differentially with increasing temporal complexity of rhythms during initialization, synchronization, and continuation phases of paced finger tapping. Neuropsychologia, 42(10), 1301-1312.

 

  • Temporal processing (or the timing of neural oscillations/transmissions) plays a critical role in coordinated motor movement.  In this paper published in Science, the authors distinguish between “continuous” motor tasks, which involves moving steadily and smoothly at a certain pace, versus “discontinuous” motor tasks, which involve a succession of stops and starts as a person accomplishes each step of an overall goal (i.e., picking up a plate, walking it over to the table, and setting it down). They discuss the role of the cerebellum in each of these types of motor tasks and how the timing control for each differs in terms of the brain structures used, arguing that the cerebellum is involved only early on in setting the timing goal for continuous, smooth movements, but that the cerebellum is involved throughout the movement when it is discontinuous or involves several starts and stops by setting several, successive timing goals.  Timing in the brain may be disrupted due to developmental disorder, trauma, or illness resulting in uncoordinated movement and/or cognitive impairment.  The Interactive Metronome is a treatment program that measures and improves temporal processing, or timing in the brain, that is critical for movement and thinking. 

Spencer, R.M.C., Zelaznik, H.N., Diedrichsen, J., and Ivry, R.B. (2003). Disrupted timing of discontinuous but not continuous movements by cerebellar lesions. Science, 300(5624), 1437-1442.

 

Processing Speed

  • Scalar expectancy theory (SET) is one of the most popular current models of human timing.  This article contains one of the simplest explanations of SET that I have seen.  Wearden (2008) suggests our brain keeps time via a pacemaker that starts pulsing at regular intervals as the brain receives information from the environment that is timed (i.e., when listening to someone speak).  Speech contains many timed elements that must be separately interpreted and then integrated to distinguish between sounds, syllables, words and other information like intent of the speaker (serious? joking?).  Each “pulse” is then collected by something called an “accumulator.”   The authors discuss how the pacemaker is switched on and off, how the accumulator starts and stops collecting the timed information based on the switching on and off of the pacemaker, and about the reference memories for time (or # of pulses) that are kept in memory and accessed in order to make a final determination (i.e., in the example I gave earlier, the decision would be about what is heard …did he say “burst” or “birth?”).  Additionally, Wearden provided further evidence that the pace or speed of the brain’s clock can be manipulated with specific activities that are repetitive and engage attention.  The Interactive Metronome is a brain fitness tool that is used in the treatment of many developmental disorders, acquired brain injuries, progressive illnesses, and by those that are feeling the effect of aging or want an academic or athletic advantage.  Through repetitive exercises aimed at synchronizing timing in the brain, individuals learn better focus, memory, and coordination.

Wearden, J.H. (2008). Slowing down an internal clock: Implications for accounts of performance on four timing tasks. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(2), 263-274.

  • Not only are researchers fascinated with the idea that humans possess an “internal clock” … the fact that it controls and regulates so many of our human abilities like our thinking (or processing) speed … but they are also very interested in seeing if they can manipulate the brain’s clock by speeding it up or slowing it down.  Previous research has shown that repetitive stimulation has an effect on a person’s internal timing by either speeding it up or slowing it down, depending upon the goal and type of stimulation provided.  This was again demonstrated in a study by Droit-Volet & Wearden (2002) where they provided repetitive stimulation to children of a variety of different ages to “speed up” their internal clock or ability to process information faster.  In my experience with Interactive Metronome (IM), I have found that the repetitive auditory/visual stimulation of IM training has a very definite impact on processing speed.  This has been repeatedly evident on standardized post-testing.  Taub et al (2007) studied the effect of IM training on reading skills in elementary school children and proposed that the improvement seen in reading may be attributed to IM’s effect on “clock speed.”  The repetitive stimulation of Interactive Metronome both synchronizes and increases the speed of our internal clock.  This is important because current research in the field of “intelligence” and the neurosciences tells us that the faster our “internal clock” operates, the more we are able to reach our potential academically, professionally, socially, athletically…

Droit-Volet, S. & Wearden, J. (2002). Speeding up an internal clock in children? Effects of visual flicker on subjective duration.  The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55B(3), 193-211.

 

  • Researchers have discovered that one way to further prove contemporary theory on human timing (i.e., scalar timing theory; pacemaker-accumulator model), is to manipulate “internal clock speed.”  In other words, they seek to make the brain operate faster or slower by asking individuals to complete specific repeated activities that over time have the effect of slowing down the internal clock or speeding it up.  Here is yet another study (Penton-Voak et al., 1996) where the authors proved that the pace of our internal clock or what is otherwise known as our ability to think faster can be sped up.  The authors mention something important in that to increase our cognitive speed, the stimulation must be repetitive and must engage attention.  Interactive Metronome is patented brain training program that provides the right combination to increase mental speed and fitness.

Penton-Voak, I.S., Edwards, H., Percival, A., and Wearden, J.H. (1996).  Speeding up and internal clock in humans? Effects of click trains on subjective duration. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 22(3), 307-320.


Download a full list of IM Research References.