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Can infants’ brains generalize a primed meter acrossdifferent tempos?

Can infants’ brains generalize a primed meter acrossdifferent tempos?

Presenter Name:Virtues, Serrano

School/Affiliation:McMaster University

Co-Authors:Erica Flaten, Dr. Laurel Trainor


Rhythm perception is crucial for early language acquisition (Nazzi & Ramus, 2003), as well as development of prosocial and altruistic behaviors (Cirelli et al., 2014; Trainor & Cirelli, 2015). However, the neural correlates of infant rhythm and meter perception are not well-defined. Using EEG, Flaten et al. (2022) showed 6- to 7-month-old infants can engage top-down processes when encoding an ambiguous 6-beat rhythm, showing larger mismatch responses (MMR) to pitch deviants on metrically strong, compared to weak beat positions, according to whether they were primed to hear the rhythm in groups of 2 (duple meter) or groups of 3 (triple meter).

The present study investigates whether this MMR occurs when the priming tempo is different from the tempo at test, suggesting more generalizable top-down processing. Secondarily, the study investigates whether the infants’ brain activity is most consistently in phase at the primed meter frequency of the stimulus, which would also indicate a top-down representation of the rhythm. We primed 6-month-old infants (N=6 to date) to hear either duple or triple meter at four different tempos, and then presented them with meter-ambiguous test trials at a novel tempo. We measured their MMR to pitch deviants occurring on a metrically strong or weak beat (depending on how they were primed) during test trials and measured their intertrial phase coherence at the beat and meter frequencies.

These preliminary findings will give additional evidence about the nature of infant top-down meter perception, holding broad implications for early auditory development, language acquisition, and social development.

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