The ability to synchronize with auditory stimuli is ubiquitous. This can be observed, for instance, when people listening to music move in synchrony with its beat. Results obtained with healthy individuals and brain-damaged patients support the idea that synchronization is a fundamental process, which is very likely rooted into human biology.
Synchronization has often been assessed by asking subjects to tap their finger in synchrony with auditory stimuli, such as a sequence of tones equally spaced in time (tapping task). The functional mechanisms underlying synchronization in the tapping task have been described quite thoroughly (e.g. see stochastic mathematical models). However, evidence about the neuronal underpinnings of such processes (e.g. the basal ganglia and the cerebellum) is still unclear.
Moreover, it is still unknown whether the processes underlying synchronization are domain-specific (e.g. for music) or, instead, general-purpose mechanisms. The main goal of the present study is to shed light on t he processes underlying synchronization to auditory stimuli (i.e. non-musical sequences vs. music) and on their neuronal underpinnings.
In particular, the contribution of the basal ganglia to auditory synchronization will be examined. To this aim, performance in tapping tasks will be assessed pre- and post-operation in patients suffering from intractable Parkinson's disease undergoing therapeutic surgical treatment (i.e. pallidotomy) and in two control groups (i.e. patients with Parkinson's disease who will not undergo surgical treatment and normal individuals).
The results of the planned research have the potential to significantly increase our knowledge of the biological foundations of synchronization. In addition, since synchronization has revealed as an efficient technique in motor rehabilitation, clinical practice would highly benefit from the results of this research.
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