Music and metronomes: Source and subjective enjoyability of rhythmic auditory stimuli impact movement performance


When heard before movement initiation, rhythmic auditory stimuli (RAS) can improve temporal and spatial movement features. RAS, including music, can elicit emotional responses that may alter motor performance. The current experiment used two RAS (metronome and drum beats) that were heard before a goal-directed reaching movement to one of two targets in left and right hemispace. Participants rated subjective enjoyability of each condition on a 5-point Likert scale. We hypothesized participants would enjoy the drum more than the metronome, leading to improved performance with the drum. Twenty-one young adults performed 24 trials in each condition: simple metronome, complex metronome, simple drum, complex drum and no sound, all with and without vision. Conditions were blocked and counterbalanced and target location was randomized. Movements were captured with an Optotrak 3D Investigator (NDI) and vision was occluded upon movement initiation with Visual Occlusion Spectacles (Translucent Technologies Inc.). Dependent variables were analysed using a 3 sound (no sound, metronome, drum) by 2 vision repeated measures ANOVA. Spearman's correlation coefficient was used to compare Likert ratings and performance between drum and metronome conditions. Metronome and drum conditions elicited shorter reaction times (RT) compared to no sound, however, the metronome elicited more consistent RTs. The drum led to higher peak velocities compared to the metronome but no differences in endpoint accuracy. Participants rated the drum more enjoyable compared to the metronome, which was moderately correlated to improved performance in RT. Therefore, the source and subjective enjoyability of RAS can impact performance in a goal-directed reaching task.

Acknowledgments: Funding for this project was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.