Groove on the brain: rhythmic complexity and predictive coding


Prof. Peter Vuust

Centre for Music in the brain, Aarhus University


Musical rhythm has a remarkable capacity to move our minds and bodies. I will describe how the theory of predictive coding can be used as a framework for understanding how rhythm and rhythmic complexity are processed in the brain. This theory posits a hierarchical organization of brain responses reflecting fundamental, survival-related mechanisms associated with predicting future events. I review empirical studies of the neural and behavioral effects of syncopation, polyrhythm and groove, and propose how these studies can be seen as special cases of the PC theory. Overall, musical rhythm exploits the brain’s general principles of prediction and that the pleasure and desire for sensorimotor synchronization from musical rhythm could be a result of such mechanisms. 


Peter Vuust

Professor Peter Vuust, Ph.D. is leader of the new Danish National Research Foundation's center for "Music In the Brain. He holds joint appointments as professor at the Danish Royal Academy of Music and Dept of Aarhus University Hospital. He obtained his doctoral degree from the Medical Faculty of Aarhus University, in addition to his M.Sc. in mathematics, French and music.  He has published highly cited articles on music in the brain, using state-of-the-art brain scanning techniques such as fMRI, PET, EEG, MEG and behavioral measures and has written two monograph's "Polyrhythm and –meter in modern jazz; a study of Miles Davis’ Quintet from the 1960s” and "Music on the Brain". He is Denmark’s leading expert in the field of music and the brain – a research field he has single-handedly built up as leader of the center for Music In the Brain (MIB). Among other grants, he has received DKK 98 million as PI, from the Danish National Research Foundation.

In addition, Prof Vuust is a renowned jazz bassist and composer; leading the Peter Vuust Quartet with Alex Riel, Lars Jansson and Ove Ingemarsson of which seven records have been released so far. He has also played on more than 100 recordings and been sideman with international jazz stars such as Tim Hagans, John Abercrombie, Dave Liebman and many more. He is the recipient of the 2009 Jazz Society of Aarhus’ "Gaffel"-prize. His album “September Song” was widely acclaimed by reviewers and received a nomination for a Danish Music Award in 2014.