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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Communicative rhythms in brain and behaviour


Rachel Smith, Tamara Rathcke, Fred Cummins, Katie Overy and Sophie Scott
What is rhythm? An immediate answer to this question appears simple and might be linked with everyday examples of rhythmic events or behaviours like dancing, listening to a heartbeat or rocking a baby to sleep. However, a unified scientific definition of rhythm remains elusive. For decades, research programmes concerning rhythm and rhythmic organization have developed largely independently in areas such as music and poetry, language and language disorders, and behaviour and cognition more generally, and in this process have identified many other everyday phenomena, including nodding one's head to words, selectively attending to particular moments in time, and finishing the sentences of one's dialogue partner, that can be interpreted as cases of rhythmic behaviour. Most recently, the rhythmic nature of neural oscillations has received much attention, contributing an additional perspective to the notion of rhythm in communication systems. We believe that at this stage, it is essential to start a cross-disciplinary conversation around the unified theme of rhythm. The aim of this theme issue is to provide the vocabulary for the conversation, and to update the common ground across disciplines with understanding of fundamental concepts, current issues and methodologies, in the hope that this will help a new, more integrative view of rhythmic, human perception and action to emerge.