Science. But why do some music make us dance more than others?

Have you ever wondered why music a priori Did everyone agree on the dance floor? French researchers tried to answer this question and discover the secrets of the groove, in a recent study that will appear in the journal Scientific advances.

To study the desire to dance, this research team from Inserm and Aix-Marseille University recruited 30 people and made them listen to music. But not just any melody: the researchers first created 12 short melodies with a classic rhythm of 120 bpm (beats per minute). They then created three variations of each of these melodies, playing with the degree of syncopation. If you have never done music theory, this may not mean anything to you, but in short, they created music with a more or less complex rhythm, without modifying its speed or the rest of the characteristics of the original melody.

Neither too simple nor too complicated

The participants in the study had to listen to all these pieces and write down at the end of the exercise the level of “groove” they felt. During this time, his brain activity was recorded using a magnetoencephalography device. After analyzing the responses of the guinea pig dancers, the researchers noted that their desire to move to the music was “correlated with the syncopation rhythm” and was even “maximum for a rhythm that features an intermediate syncopation rhythm—i.e. “that is, neither too simple nor too complex,” explains Inserm.

In fact, when we listen to a moderately complex rhythm, our brain anticipates the tempo of the music, but not too much: the listener does not always predict what will happen. And it is precisely this “dynamic balance between the temporal predictability of the rhythm (…) and the prediction errors that makes us want to move and, therefore, dance”, specifies Arnaud Zalta, first author of the study and postdoctoral student at the ‘ENS. -PSL.

A unique recipe?

This is not the first time that a study has shown that the feeling of “groove” is maximum for a rhythm with an intermediate syncopation rhythm. But this time, researchers have highlighted that it is the left sensorimotor cortex of the brain that establishes the link between the auditory and motor systems. That is, it is he who allows us to coordinate our actions to the rhythm of the music.

So all it takes is a rhythm that is neither too simple nor too complicated to get our feet moving? I’m not so sure: at the end of 2022, a study conducted in Canada and published in the journal Current biology He also established a direct link between the desire to dance and low frequencies. The study participants danced almost 12% longer when, in addition to the music, very low frequencies were imperceptibly played. But at the end of the day, when the music is good, isn’t it good when it doesn’t cheat?

Leave a Comment