Memory-Paced Tapping to Auditory Rhythms: Effects of Rate, Speech, and Motor Engagement

Anat Kliger Amrani, Elana Zion Golumbic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Purpose: Humans have a near-automatic tendency to entrain their motor actions to rhythms in the environment. Entrainment has been hypothesized to play an important role in processing naturalistic stimuli, such as speech and music, which have intrinsically rhythmic properties. Here, we studied two facets of entraining one’s rhythmic motor actions to an external stimulus: (a) synchronized finger tapping to auditory rhythmic stimuli and (b) memory-paced reproduction of a previously heard rhythm. Method: Using modifications of the Synchronization–Continuation tapping paradigm, we studied how these two rhythmic behaviors were affected by different stimulus and task features. We tested synchronization and memory-paced tapping for a broad range of rates, from stimulus onset asynchrony of subsecond to suprasecond, both for strictly isochronous tone sequences and for rhythmic speech stimuli (counting from 1 to 10), which are more ecological yet less isochronous. We also asked what role motor engagement plays in forming a stable internal representation for rhythms and guiding memory-paced tapping. Results and Conclusions: Our results show that individuals can flexibly synchronize their motor actions to a very broad range of rhythms. However, this flexibility does not extend to memory-paced tapping, which is accurate only in a narrower range of rates, around ~1.5 Hz. This pattern suggests that intrinsic rhythmic defaults in the auditory and/or motor system influence the internal representation of rhythms, in the absence of an external pacemaker. Interestingly, memory-paced tapping for speech rhythms and simple tone sequences shared similar “optimal rates,” although with reduced accuracy, suggesting that internal constraints on rhythmic entrainment generalize to more ecological stimuli. Last, we found that actively synchronizing to tones versus passively listening to them led to more accurate memory-paced tapping performance, which emphasizes the importance of action–perception interactions in forming stable entrainment to external rhythms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-939
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 8 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.


This work was supported by the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology (Grant 16416-3 awarded to Elana Zion Golumbic).

FundersFunder number
Ministry of science and technology, Israel16416-3


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