Do Drum Rhythms Affect Brain Rhythms?

MIckey Hart

Today is Mickey Hart’s birthday, and now at 70 years young he shows no signs of slowing!

In July I shared a bit about “Drum Ki” his fine art collection that utilizes sophisticated technology to create a new medium translating rhythm to visual art. The image you see above “The Sermon” is part of this collection and hangs on my office wall as a daily reminder about the meaning of rhythm in our lives.

Now not only can you see Mickey Hart’s rhythmic art, but the brain that creates it. Watch the Grateful Dead Drummer’s brain scanned with an EEG while he plays drums!  UCSF neuroscientist Adam Gassaley is working with Hart to investigate if enhancing someone’s sense of timing might improve their cognition. VIDEO– Learn more in this ABC News report.

Research has shown that music training improves the brain’s ability to recognize, perceive, and make time sensitive movements such as speech production.  Do drum rhythms affect brain rhythms? The answer is yes. This is a core sonic principle called entrainment which I wrote about in Healing at the Speed of Sound with my co-author Don Campbell. What we don’t yet understand is to what extent, and all the mechanisms involved. There is much left to learn.

We have our own brain rhythm project happening at Advanced Brain Technologies, now five years in the making. Currently we are conducting research via a preliminary clinical trial in which children and adults listen to specially created rhythmic music twice daily through headphones to explore what kind of neurological changes may come using qualitative and psychometric measures. We are eager to see the outcomes. Given our efforts in applied music cognition research we are also excited to learn what will come from the Hart/Gassaley collaboration.

8 thoughts on “Do Drum Rhythms Affect Brain Rhythms?

  1. Catherine J. Schwaegler says:

    What a great article with wonderful insights!! WE know that rhythm plays a hugely significant role in brain development and function. Now, the world will have credible empirical evidence! WOW! Best wishes, Cathy Schwaegler

  2. Catherine J. Schwaegler says:

    I wish you and TLP the VERY BEST!! I still follow you, believe in what you all are doing (and still live around the corner). 😉 Will you please give Mandy my best? Blessings, Cathy Schwaegler

  3. Robyn P says:

    I am a dance/movement therapist who uses drumming and rhythmic expression as an intervention with a wide range of populations. Over many years, I have seen that an inability to create and then hold a rhythm (alone or in the presence of others) is an indicator of mental health status – a simple diagnostic tool. As a person begins to stabilise and return to health, their rhythmic integrity improves. I would be interested to hear if you are doing any investigations involving people with dementia.

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