The Role of Rhythm in Higher-Order Brain Functions
Mickey Hart is a Grammy-award winning musician. He is best known as one of the drummers of the rock band The Grateful Dead. In 2012, the Grateful Dead drummer exposed his brain to a live audience.
With an electroencephalography (EEG) device on his head, Mickey Hart played the drums, to show spectators images of the rhythms pulsing through his brain on big screens in a packed room.
The performance was the result of a collaboration between Hart and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. The two have been working together as part of the Rhythm and the Brain Project to better understand the role of rhythm in higher-order brain function and explore the possibilities that rhythm-training could provide meaningful interventions for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. 
“Hart had an experience several years ago with his grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s,” says Gazzaley. “He noticed she was most communicative when he played the drums. It hit home that rhythm could have therapeutic impact, something he’d suspected for a long time.”
Of course, Mickey Hart and Adam Gazzaley, are not the only people looking into these areas, the effects of the rhythm on the brain are actively being pursued by many people in neuroscience.
Rhythm and the Brain
Looking at the past, since the 1920’s researchers recorded rhythmic fluctuations of electrical activity in the brain, but brain waves were not believed to have any meaningful role in higher cognitive abilities. However, in recent decades, scientists have realized that brain rhythms are correlated with various cognitive phenomena such as perception, cognition and attention, says Gazzaley.
So, what does rhythm has to do with our brain functioning and what happens when the human brain follow the rhythm of a beat? In 2007, study led by Pascal Fries, a neuroscientist at the Ernst Strungmann Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, demonstrated remarkable results revealed that different neural groups only communicate well when their rhythm of electrical activity is synchronized, leading to improved memory and task competition. 
Revealing the Science of Synchronized Rhythm
Studies are now supporting the inherent relationship with rhythm to the human brain function. In April 2013, the Cell Press journal Neuron researchers found that playing sounds that synchronized with the rhythm of the slow brain oscillations during deep sleep boosts the participant’s memory . Meanwhile, a study conducted at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, discussed in a recent Conceptual Revolutions article “Drummers are Awesome, Revealing the Science of Synchronized Rhythm,” discovered a link that connects intelligence, good timing, and problem-solving abilities with the practice of rhythm. Studies also suggest that a steady beat can also enhance the intelligence of the listeners too. 
The mystery runs deeper, according to psychologist Annett Schirmer, rhythmic sound “it does not only coordinates the behavior of people in a group, it also coordinates their thinking—the mental processes of individuals in the group become synchronized.”  Now these are just glimpse among many revolutionary understanding we are witnessing today!
Sound at a Cellular Level
According to Adam B. Dorfman, author of the book Conceptual Revolutions, “The science of synchronized rhythm is fascinating and seems to play an important role in establishing connections in regions of the brain. Beyond practicing rhythm in your daily life, the effects of sound at a cellular levels also seems to have important consequences. How sound works to bring about the healing effects to our bodies, should be of profound relevance to human health. With the emergence of sonogenetics, how sound can reverse pathologies is becoming an important field of research” 
In the second part of this article, which will be published next week, we will explore revolutionary scientific research in the field of sonogenetics; how sound waves can activate dormant neurons and potential cure neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.