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Checkup: Two Left Feet

Luke Addison/

Ditmire: If you think you have no rhythm or two left feet, it might be more of a self-confidence thing, than a real ailment, or so says a team of researchers in Montreal.

Dr. Lidjii: I am Pascal Lidjii, PHD Neuropsychologist. I am a co-author of the study but I run the participants collected the data, analyzed the data and co-write the paper.

Ditmire: The study looked at “beat deafness.”

Dr. Lidjii: We think it’s a development deficit like a developmental disorder that causes an inability to synchronize your movement with the beat, with the rhythm, with anything regular.

Ditmire: First, they looked for volunteers.

Dr. Lidjii: When we put the ads to recruit people, we had a lot of people who just complained they were bad dancer or they can not keep a beat. But we didn’t find that many were really not able.

Ditmire: The scientists were looking for people who had troubles with their internal oscillator.

Dr. Lidjii: We have an internal rhythm and its different for each person but when you hear some music your internal oscillator is going to synchronize with that music. When you talk to someone, your speech rate is going to synchronize with that person.

Ditmire: But if you are truly beat deaf.

Dr. Lidjii: The oscillator has a hard time synchronizing with something outside of it. For example, when we play them with the metronome, and they have to synchronize their movement or the taps with the metronome, they are not as well synchronized as the control participants. And also they have a hard time adjusting. For example, if we speed up or we slow down the metronome, most people in a few times, they will adjust but our beat-deaf individuals, it takes them much longer to adjust and they always stay a little bit off.

Ditmire: In other words, it’s a brain issue.

Dr. Lidjii: It’s all about understanding how the brain works and how it communicates and how the brain gets synchronized.

Ditmire: The team is doing more brain imaging studies to find an answer. As for the dancing and rhythm troubles.

Dr. Lidjii: Some people are bad dancer but not because they can’t find the beat, because they are not very elegant when they dance, for example, so its more of a motor issue than a motor coordination issue.