Newborn infants detect the beat in music

In PNAS February 17, 2009 vol. 106 no. 7 2468-2471,

"Newborn infants detect the beat in music"
by István Winklera, Gábor P. Hádena, Olivia Ladinig, István Sziller and Henkjan Honing



To shed light on how humans can learn to understand music, we need to discover what the perceptual capabilities with which infants are born. Beat induction, the detection of a regular pulse in an auditory signal, is considered a fundamental human trait that, arguably, played a decisive role in the origin of music. Theorists are divided on the issue whether this ability is innate or learned. We show that newborn infants develop expectation for the onset of rhythmic cycles (the downbeat), even when it is not marked by stress or other distinguishing spectral features. Omitting the downbeat elicits brain activity associated with violating sensory expectations. Thus, our results strongly support the view that beat perception is innate.




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