Ramkumar Jagadeesan

Graduate Student
Western
Email author

Spontaneous intrapersonal synchrony and the effect of cognitive load

Ramkumar Jagadeesan and Jessica Grahn

I am a graduate student in the psychology program at the Music & Neuroscience lab at Western under Dr. Jessica Grahn. I am interested in the functional roots of musical elements in non-musical phenomena such as spontaneous motor tempo, spontaneous synchrony, and prosody. I am also interested in rhythm perception and how it is related to pitch perception as well as echoic memory. 

Spontaneous intrapersonal synchrony and the effect of cognitive load

Ramkumar Jagadeesan and Jessica Grahn
Abstract

Spontaneous interpersonal synchronization has been studied for decades. However, in comparison, spontaneous synchronization of behaviors within an individual, called spontaneous intrapersonal synchronization, remains less investigated. Both phenomena leave the synchronizer/s with just one regularity to track instead of multiple; therefore, their underlying mechanisms could be similar as well. For the purpose of this study, the explanation of interest is that interpersonal motor synchronization occurs because of the tendency of brains to conserve computational resources, and predicts that high cognitive load (such as during a demanding working memory task during hand clapping or walking together) biases interacting individuals further towards spontaneous synchronization. Arguably, optimization through synchrony could apply to movements performed by the same person as well, rather than between two people, and this synchrony could more likely increase under high cognitive load; findings do show that when tracking two different beats in simultaneous auditory sequences, musicians combine the beats into a single composite beat pattern, rather than tracking the two beats independently. In the current study, subjects performed two pairs of tasks, tapping – reading & tapping – walking under three conditions: Single Task, Dual Task, & Dual Task w/ cognitive load. Relative mean rates and standard deviation of rates were calculated. In the tapping – reading experiment, relative mean rates gravitated towards integer values for the most part, suggesting spontaneous intrapersonal synchrony. However, standard deviation of rates was much higher than expected during Dual Task conditions. No evidence was found suggesting spontaneous intrapersonal synchrony in the tapping – walking experiment, nor in favor of cognitive load as a catalyst to synchronization in both experiments.