The Ability to Synchronize Motor Movements to a Steady Beat is Linked to a Person’s Ability to Process Speech & Language and Read

A new study by Tierney & Kraus (2013) from Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory helps shed more light on why synchronizing motor movements to a steady beat results in faster, more accurate auditory processing, reading, and language processing.  Their landmark study of 124 high school students highlights a neural structure called the inferior colliculus (IC) that serves as a way station for timing information between subcortical auditory structures, cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum. Tierny & Kraus have found the "first evidence linking [motor] beat synchronization ability to individual differences in auditory system function." Continue reading for more information on this groundbreaking research.

Individualized IM “on-demand focus” training

 

As summarized in prior posts, neurocognitive research suggests that the predominant gear of our minds transmission is neutral.  Our mental engine is working (idling) but to those observing us, our brain is not moving—we often do not appear cognitively engaged in any complex thinking or processing.

The typical person spends up to half their time engaged in the spontaneous chasing of miscellaneous thoughts down various rabbit holes of our minds.  Our thought promiscuous mind wanders here-and-there when daydreaming (“zoning out”) or becoming trapped in a cycle of negative unchecked thoughts (e.g., rumination over negative unhappy thoughts; mania; obsessions).  However, the unconstrained busy or wandering mind can also produce creative insights and thoughts.   An unquiet or busy mind can be good or bad depending on the demands facing the individual at any given time.  More importantly, the amount of optimal mind wandering may vary for different people.

RAPT: Attention and focus

 

I have been reading Winfred Gallagher’s 2009 book “RAPT:  Attention and the focused life.”  In many of my blog posts I maintain that Interactive Metronome (IM) training requires controlled attention—focus.  I have further suggested that “on demand focus” is a potentially powerful tool.  By this I mean one wants to train your brain to invoke focused attention when facing cognitively demanding tasks.  However, 100% laser beam focus is not attainable, nor would one want to constantly be super focused.   The mind wandering of the default brain networkneeds to be shut down to focus.  However, unfettered mind wandering can allow for creative thought (and also the flip side—ruminations of irrational or bad thoughts).

ADHD as a brain network dysfunction—IM as a tool to “fine tune” and control this network.

ADHD as a brain network dysfunction—IM as a tool to “fine tune” and control this network.

The explosion of research on large scale brain networks, and the “resting state” or “default mode or default network” in particular, has been dizzying.  I previously reviewedkey brain network research describing the interaction between the default, salience (attention) and executive controlled networks.  The most important conclusion, which was reinforced by my personal experiencewith Interactive Metronome (IM), is that problems with controlled attention (focus) may be responsible for a number of the behavioral symptoms of ADHD—and this is due to the poor ability to suppress the random self-talk “background noise” of the default brain network.  [Click herefor related IM-HOME ADHD posts; click herefor ADHD- related Brain Clock.]

You are a time machine

 

You are a time machine

Time and space are the two fundamental dimensions of our lives. All forms of human behavior require us to process and understand information we receive from our environment in either spatial or temporal patterns. Even though mental timing (temporal processing) research is in a stage of infancy (when compared to spatial processing) important insights regarding the human brain clock have emerged.
Below is a list (albeit incomplete) of some of the major conclusions regarding the human brain clock. The sources for these statements come from my review of the temporal processing and brain clock literature during the past five years. Most of this information has been disseminated at the Brain Clock blog or the Brain Clock Evolving Web of Knowledge (EWOK). The goal of this post is to provide a Readers Digest summary of the major conclusions. This material can serve as a set of "talking points" at your next social event where you can impress your friends and family as you explain why you use the high-tech IM "clapper" (with a cowbell tone no less) either as a provider or as client.
Our brains measure time constantly. It's hard to find any complex human behavior where mental timing is not involved. Timing is required to walk, talk, perform complex movements and coordinate...

What the “Time Doc” is reading: Connectome

U snooze and you lose. I had received an advanced copy of Sebastian Seung's Connectome and had hoped to make one of the first book review posts about it. I simply could not find time to read it fast enough and the professionals have already weighed in on the book...so you might as well read their reviews. I have a few minor comments.
I agree with the review in the Wall Street Journal review that this may be one of the best written books on the basics of brain science. Keeping up with contemporary neuroscience and placing it in the context of what I learned during my training and professional experiences has been hard. As I read some of the material that I consider "review" I realized that it was not just a review for me, but it helped my mind see the forrest-from-the-trees re: the neuroscience knowledge I had accumulated---but had not taken time to distill. It is a very good introductory book for the educated lay public on brain science and a nice "organizing review" for professionals.
Another review, which is more an excerpt of of the essence of the book is now also available at the brain fitness heart of the internet--SharpBrains.
My only complaint is that I had hoped it would deal more...

The Sound of Music

Do you remember Congresswoman Gabby Giffords? Well in the 10 months since a bullet left her in critical condition and suffering from aphasia—the inability to speak- Mrs. Giffords is now singing thanks to music therapy!

The Brain Clock: The brain clock as a “jack-of-all-trades” brain mechanism that can be fine-tuned to improve human performance

The Brain Clock:  The brain clock as a “jack-of-all-trades” brain mechanism that can be fine-tuned to improve human performance

In my inaugural IM-Home blog post (Brain Clock: My journey to understand the science of mental timing interventions), I concluded with the following statement:

I am now convinced that the IM-effect is impacting a fundamental and critical cognitive mechanism (or set of mechanisms) involved in a wide array of human cognitive and motor performance domains.”

Cognitive and intelligence researchers have long sought for (and argued about) the “holy grail”of intelligence—an underlying core essence or mechanism that plays a role in most all intellectual and human performance situations.  It is typically referred to as g, or general intelligence.   The general consensus touches on the concept of neural efficiency.  Such a general mechanism or process is considered a domain-general cognitive mechanism as it works across multiple domains of human ability, or in other words...if you improve this one area of ability, it in turn improves several areas of ability in the same person like cognitive skills (focus, attention, memory), speech/language abilities (articulation, auditory processing, reading), and motor skills (coordination, gait, balance).   It works across multiple domains of human ability.  Some have referred to such general mechanisms...

The Brain Clock: My journey to understand the science of mental timing interventions

The Brain Clock: My journey to understand the science of mental timing interventions

Run Gordon Run…this sounds like high-tech snake oil!”   

That was my knee-jerk advice to friend and colleague, Dr. Gordon Taub, when he called me in 2004 to assess my interest in consulting on a “synchronized metronome tapping” (SMT) invention called Interactive Metronome (IM).  IM was supposedly directed at improving the academic achievement of elementary school students.  My skepticism was grounded on the fact that for many years in education (and special education in particular), non-academic interventions focused on remediating underlying cognitive deficits (e.g., psycholinguistic process training; visual-motor or spatial integration training; motor planning retraining) were subsequently found to be ineffective in improving reading, writing and math.  Yes, performance could be improved on tests of the specific cognitive processes trained, but the results did not transfer to academic improvement in the classroom.

By the early to mid-1980’s non-academic cognitive process intervention programs had been debunked as ineffective for improving school achievement.  It was from this skeptical lens that I offered Dr. Taub my advice.  I went as far as telling Dr. Taub that I could not risk my professional reputation by being associated with yet another “magic bullet” claim for school learning, especially for “at risk” learners.  The magic bullet lesson had been burned well into my school psychology psyche after...

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