A general procedure to measure the pacing of body movements timed to music and metronome in younger and older adults
Rose, Dawn C.
Finger-tapping tasks are classically used to investigate sensorimotor synchronization in relation to neutral auditory cues, such as metronomes. However, music is more commonly associated with an entrained bodily response, such as toe tapping, or dancing. Here we report an experimental procedure that was designed to bridge the gap between timing and intervention studies by directly comparing the effects of metronome and musical cue types on motor timing abilities across the three naturalistic voluntary actions of finger tapping, toe tapping, and stepping on the spot as a simplified case of whole body movement. Both pacing cues were presented at slow, medium, and fast tempi. The findings suggested that the task of stepping on the spot enabled better timing performances than tapping both in younger and older adults (75+). Timing performances followed an inverse U shape with best performances observed in the medium tempi that were set close to the spontaneous motor tempo in each movement type. Finally, music provided an entrainment effect in addition to pace setting that enabled better motor timing and greater stability than classically reported using a metronome. By applying time-stamp analyses to kinetic data, we demonstrate that tapping and stepping engage different timing modes. This work details the importance of translational research for a better understanding of motor timing. It offers a simple procedure that strengthens the validity of applying academic work and contributes in knowledge towards a wide range of therapeutic interventions.