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CRBLM – BRAMS Conference by Dr. Edward W. Large

How baby gets the groove: Modeling rhythm learning, perceptual narrowing, and enculturation

Abstract: Ontogeny is a complex, emergent process that arises from interactions between the developing organism and the structures present in the rearing environment. In the field of infant development, one of the most well-known consequences of organism-environment interactions is the adaption and re-organization of perception-action systems to structural regularities in the environment, a phenomenon called “perceptual narrowing” or “perceptual fine tuning.” Previous work suggests that infants’ perception of musical rhythms is gradually fine-tuned to culture-specific musical structures over the first post-natal year. To date, however, little is known about the neurobiological principles that underlie this process. In the current study, we modeled infants’ perceptual narrowing to culture-specific musical rhythms using oscillatory neural networks with Hebbian synaptic plasticity. We demonstrate that, during a period of unsupervised learning, oscillatory networks adapt to the rhythmic structure of Western and Balkan musical rhythms through the self-organization of network connections. We show that these learned connections affect the ability of the network to discriminate between native and non-native rhythms, a pattern of findings that mirrors the behavioral data on infants’ perceptual narrowing to musical rhythms. We develop an overall framework for modeling rhythm learning and development and discuss how this may account for the process of enculturation to the rhythms of one’s musical environment.

Bio: Dr. Large directs the Music Dynamics Laboratory at University of Connecticut, where he is a Professor of Psychological Sciences and Professor of Physics. He is Associate Editor at Frontiers in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience and Music Perception, and he recently completed a term as President of the Society for Music Perception and Cognition. Dr. Large received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 1994, completing a dissertation titled ‘Dynamic Representation of Music Structure,’ and he completed postdoctoral work at University of Pennsylvania in robotics and auditory neuroscience. His research is published in journals such as Psychological ReviewPhysica, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Music Perception, and Journal of Computational Neuroscience. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Fulbright Visiting Chair in the Science and Technology of Music at McGill University. He has been awarded several patents on his discoveries, and in 2016 he founded Oscilloscape, LLC, a music and speech technology company based in Connecticut.


Nov 29 2018


12:00 pm - 1:15 pm




Pavillon Marie-Victorin, Room A-103

BRAMS (International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research) is a unique centre dedicated to research excellence in the study of music and auditory cognition with a focus on neuroscience. The research centre is located in Montreal and jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal and McGill University.


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