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Is Rhythm hard-wired into Humans: Music, and Circadian Rhythms

August 30th, 2016 · No Comments · how the brain works, music and the brain


Rhythm is Hardwired in Humans

Is rhythm hard-wired into humans?  We all know the irresistible feelings of wanting to clap along to music, or snap your fingers, or get up and dance!  When these urges wash over us, and when we see other people around us start doing the same thing, we feel that it’s OK to give in to these urges!  It greatly enhances the enjoyment of the moment.  It makes us feel alive and uplifted!

But is it actually hard-wired into humans?   This is not an easy question.  Rhythm is an integral part of our bodies and our world.  On the human level, we have the rhythm of heart-beat and breathing. Those are involuntary rhythms that are indications of how healthy we are.  But when we are in a state of dis-ease, they are an early sign that something is wrong.  An erratic heart-beat and rapid, shallow, breathing, lets the physician/healer know that something is awry.  And music can make a difference.  Having a slow, steady beat in an ill person’s room, whether just a rhythmic pulse, or as a part of soft music, can actually be helpful to stabilizing body rhythms, thanks to the process of rhythmic entrainment.

In terms of our world, we have they rhythms and cycles of day and night, they cycles of the four seasons, and the cycles and the phases of the moon, among other things.  Rhythm is everywhere and they’re not always steady and equal.  Even the length of day and night change, according to our proximity to the equator.  But back to the original question:  are humans hard-wired for rhythm?  Well, here is what one very reputable source tells us:

from a book entitled Complications in Anesthesia,  “Humans evolved on a planet with light and dark cycles…as such, we are governed by the Circadian rhythms, hard-wired into our bodies.”

Another source,, reports that “Music is processed in areas throughout the brain, and some of the cognitive processes involved in music, such as memory, emotion, and perception, share neural circuitry with more general brain functioning.  But research has also found that some neural networks seem to be specifically dedicated to the processing of music.  For example, there are auditory circuits used in the perception of music that are not used for speech recognition or for other kinds of sounds.  The circuitry required for processing pitch intervals or complex rhythmic structures is probably unique to music and not used for anything else.”

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