Reformulated Research Question

Question: Does movement accompanying an action help to remember that action?

Katinka Dijkstra, Michael P. Kaschak, Rolf A. Zwaan, (January 2007) ‘Body posture facilitates retrieval of autobiographical memories,’ Cognition, Volume 102, Issue 1, Pages 139-149, ISSN 0010-0277,

Abstract: “We assessed potential facilitation of congruent body posture on access to and retention of autobiographical memories in younger and older adults. Response times were shorter when body positions during prompted retrieval of autobiographical events were similar to the body positions in the original events than when body position was incongruent. Free recall of the autobiographical events two weeks later was also better for congruent-posture than for incongruent-posture memories. The findings were similar for younger and older adults, except for the finding that free recall was more accurate in younger adults than in older adults in the congruent condition. We discuss these findings in the context of theories of embodied cognition.”

Bettina Bläsing, Beatriz Calvo-Merino, Emily S. Cross, Corinne Jola, Juliane Honisch, Catherine J. Stevens, (February 2012) ‘Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance,’ Acta Psychologica, Volume 139, Issue 2,  Pages 300-308, ISSN 0001-6918,

Abstract: “Dance is a rich source of material for researchers interested in the integration of movement and cognition. The multiple aspects of embodied cognition involved in performing and perceiving dance have inspired scientists to use dance as a means for studying motor control, expertise, and action-perception links. The aim of this review is to present basic research on cognitive and neural processes implicated in the execution, expression, and observation of dance, and to bring into relief contemporary issues and open research questions. The review addresses six topics: 1) dancers’ exemplary motor control, in terms of postural control, equilibrium maintenance, and stabilization; 2) how dancers’ timing and on-line synchronization are influenced by attention demands and motor experience; 3) the critical roles played by sequence learning and memory; 4) how dancers make strategic use of visual and motor imagery; 5) the insights into the neural coupling between action and perception yielded through exploration of the brain architecture mediating dance observation; and 6) a neuroesthetics perspective that sheds new light on the way audiences perceive and evaluate dance expression. Current and emerging issues are presented regarding future directions that will facilitate the ongoing dialog between science and dance.”

Grafton, S. T. (2009), ‘Embodied Cognition and the Simulation of Action to Understand Others. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,’ 1156: 97–117. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04425.x

“Understanding the goals or intentions of other people requires a broad range of evaluative processes including the decoding of biological motion, knowing about object properties, and abilities for recognizing task space requirements and social contexts. It is becoming increasingly evident that some of this decoding is based in part on the simulation of other people’s behavior within our own nervous system. This review focuses on aspects of action understanding that rely on embodied cognition, that is, the knowledge of the body and how it interacts with the world. This form of cognition provides an essential knowledge base from which action simulation can be used to decode at least some actions performed by others. Recent functional imaging studies or action understanding are interpreted with a goal of defining conditions when simulation operations occur and how this relates with other constructs, including top-down versus bottom-up processing and the functional distinctions between action observation and social networks. From this it is argued that action understanding emerges from the engagement of highly flexible computational hierarchies driven by simulation, object properties, social context, and kinematic constraints and where the hierarchy is driven by task structure rather than functional or strict anatomic rules.”

Embodied Cognition and Kinesthetic Motion Literature Review

Slow, fast, fluid – these adjectives can be applied to the facets of rhythm, tempo, and articulation of either movement or music. In fact, there is not much dispute that the auditory and vestibular systems are, in fact, linked. Human movement studies have been involved in everything from pedagogical approaches to memory and entrainment. This literature review addresses how physical body movements can be linked to music, touching upon embodied cognition, physical movement and motion capture technology, how movement to music affects beat perception, developmental studies about rhythmic performance, and substrates behind rhythm affection motor behavior. Not only are brain areas traditionally assumed to only be associated with performing kinesthetic actions now being linked to auditory beat perception, these neuroscience studies are being used alongside behavioral studies that show how body movements can help parse the metric structure of music (Toivianen 2010).

Leman (2008) focuses on the presence of goal-directed action in music perception, embodied cognition thus assuming interaction between an organism and its environment. Leman also mentions Hanslick’s theory of moving sonic forms; just as dance is an undefined structure of form relationships, so is music. An organism’s reaction to the moving sonic form of music is corporeal, providing support to embodied cognition being shaped by aspects of the body. Under the impression that movement can enhance listening, a study attempting to measure vestibular influence on auditory metrical interpretation (Phillips-Silver Phillips-Silver & Trainor, 2008) found that movement of the head, but not legs, affects meter perception. Drawing upon previous work that showed that body movement could help distinguish between metrically ambiguous rhythmic sound patterns, Phillips-Silver & Trainor (2005, 2007) were able to both isolate the vestibular system and test without any vestibular input with the end result of proving that the vestibular system and auditory information are indeed integrated in perception.

Ranging from spontaneous to deliberate body movements, dance is a form of corporeal interpretation of music that can be captured by various technological methods. Eerola et al. (2006) investigated the corporeal movement of toddlers to music using a high-resolution motion capture system. Toiviainen et al. (2010) applied kinetic analysis, body modeling, dimensionality reduction, and signal processing to data acquired by attaching reflectors to 28 joint markers on participants’ bodies. Eigenmovements, according to Alexandrov et al. (2001), are “movements along eigenvectors of the motion equation.”

A high-resolution motion capture system was used in the 2010 Toiviainen study to identify the most typical movement patterns, or eigenmovements, synchronized to different metrical, or beat, levels. PCs (principal components) are a reduced group of uncorrelated variables transformed into a large group of variables, the first five pertaining to the rotation of the upper torso, lateral swaying of the body, mediolateral arm movement, (four does not vary significantly) and vertical arm movement. The beat-level data can be summarized as follows: The one-beat level corresponded with mediolateral and vertical arm movements, the two-beat level with mediolateral arm movements and rotation of the upper torso, and the four-beat level with lateral swaying of the body and rotation of the upper torso. This observation was in line with their hypothesis that “faster metric levels are embodied in the extremities, and slower ones in the central parts of the body.” The torso’s significant mass, and thus kinetic energy, can be thought of in terms of the previously mentioned study’s focus on vestibular motion (in connection to the torso). Even a relatively dated study using motion capture like a virtual dance and music environment at UC Irvine (Beliaqua et al., 2001) used a data stream from placement of acceleration sensors on strategic body parts in order to transform motion into sound.

Mitchell et al. (2001) postulates that similar emotions generated from music and dance can be a means of matching them, accordingly suggesting that their simultaneous presentation might increase the chances of a match even with few similarities. The cross-modality mainly taken into account is emotion, presented as a representation of visual, auditory, or kinesthetic imagery that could potentially serve as a connector in memory between “temporally dissociated visual observations of a dance and auditory experience of the music that inspired it.” There may be a correlation of movement to ‘groove,’ as well, keeping in mind that some rhythms may only be inhibited by adding the additional stimuli of movement (Petr et al., 2011).

The auditory and dorsal premotor cortices were activated for longer tap times (louder tones) in a study (Zatorre et al., 2006). First hypothesized was that the more salient meters would most affect movement entrainment, also modulating brain regions driven by these auditory–motor interactions. Five parametric levels of metric saliency were created to test the hypothesis by increasing the contrast in sound intensity between accented and unaccented notes. Ultimately, the posterior STG and dPMC showed the most function connectivity in auditory-motor interactions. However, these findings can also be applied to neural components such as “mirror neurons,” due to the muscle memory enhanced by repetition of movement, for example by drummers reproducing the exact same sound at the same tempo.

In conclusion, a clear distinction needs to be made between what kind of movement is being integrated with auditory stimuli. Movements follow a hierarchical organization depending on the proximal/distal characteristic of the limb used (Peckel et al., 2014), and can even depend on loudness of tone as well. Music “has a pervasive tendency to rhythmically engage our body,” (Dalla Bella et al., 2013), but we still are not able to fully pin down the neural substrates involved, not only because the cross-modality of areas like the pre-motor cortex are involved in so many bodily functions. Current studies are focusing on modeling hierarchically organized temporal patterns induced by external rhythms. Questions to take away from this can include that if new temporal patterns are presented, do they have basis in past, known, patterns, and can movements be applied to this same exploration?



Does the addition of kinesthetic motion while listening to rhythms affect performance on memory tasks of reproducing those same rhythms?

1. Phillips-Silver, Jessica (2009) ‘On the Meaning of Movement in Music, Development and the Brain,’ Contemporary Music Review, 28: 3, 293-31

Because Phillips-Silver approaches the neuroscience of music from a multi-disciplinary approach, her exploration of beat perception and synchronization explicitly applies to my interest in sensorimotor development and how such movements are cultivated.

2. Iyer, Vijay (2002) ‘Embodied Mind, Situated Cognition, and Expressive Microtiming in African-American Music,’ Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3 pp. 387-414

This article references how music correlates to bodily motions with data of what rhythmic pulses pertain to what kinds of vestibular motions. Beats are described as being felt, while bars counted; could the movements that we naturally feel help with subconsciously count bars, too?

3. Petr Janata, Stefan T. Tomic, and Jason M. Haberman (2011) ‘Sensorimotor Coupling in Music and the Psychology of the Groove,’Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 141, No. 1, 54–75

[This week’s readings actually included things right up my alley,], this article discusses the urge to move when listening to music, relevant to my qualifying question of whether ; there may be a correlation to ‘groove,’ as remembering some rhythms may only be inhibited by adding the additional stimuli of movement.

4. Phillips-Silver & Trainor (2008), “Vestibular Influence on Auditory Metrical Interpretation,” Brain and Cognition 67, 94–102

Phillips-Silver & Trainor discuss the bias that vestibular influence can have on interpreting patterns, literally delving into the cognitive aspect of my project.

5. Mathieu Peckel, Thierry Pozzo and Emmanuel Bigand (2014) ‘The impact of the perception of rhythmic music on self-paced oscillatory movements,’ Front Psychol. 5:1037.

One of many findings on how characteristics of limbs used impacts the perception of rhythm- this could possibly create problems for my definition of ‘motion,’ and how trials differentiate.

6. Simone Dalla Bella, Anita Białuńska, and Jakub Sowiński (2013) ‘Why Movement Is Captured by Music, but Less by Speech: Role of Temporal Regularity’ PLoS One; 8(8): e71945.

This article mostly caught my attention because it supports my idea that music “has a pervasive tendency to rhythmically engage our body,” but that pitch also plays a role, not just rhythm, in dictating our comfortability in syncing to it (as opposed to speech). Applied to my question, I would have to think carefully about participants and what music/auditory stimuli I would use. 

7. McNeill WH (1995) Keeping together in time: Dance and drill in human history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

This book addresses the theoretical aspect of the motion-oriented part of my question.

8. Zatorre RJ, Chen JL, Penhune VB (2007) ‘When the brain plays music: Auditory-motor interactions in music perception and production.’ Nat Rev Neurosci 8: 547-558.10.1038/nrn2152 PubMed: 17585307 [PubMed]

These auditory-motor interactions are referring to playing instruments themselves in relation to music, which makes me think about if certain musicians are then already primed by certain movements. Is a clarinetist aided by moving certain fingers along with rhythms; is a drummer hindered if both arms and legs are not allowed to move?

9. Zatorre RJ, Chen JL, Penhune VB (2006) ‘Interactions between auditory and dorsal premotor cortex during synchronization to musical rhythms’

This study for Zatorre et al, too, wants to “elucidate the neural correlates of these auditory–motor interactions,” yet I have not found a single study that approaches the construct of memory from music through dance. Even experiments that use movement to help encode memory do so for visual or speech patterns, not rhythmic ones. 

10. Robert W. Mitchell and Matthew C. Gallaher (2001) ‘Embodying Music: Matching Music and Dance in Memory,’ Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 19, No. 1 (pp. 65-85)

Dances were decidedly matched to certain musics, again returning to the idea that distinct movements may not accompany just particular tempos, but also musical styles and modes.

Embodiment, Rhythm and Cognition


 I want to begin to better approach the understanding between the kinesthetic embodiment of rhythm through the means of cognition, specifically memory.  Many tasks of experimenting with metric entrainment involve some sort of tapping, usually hand rather than foot for data-recording purposes. This phenomenon, linked to my understanding of the learning West African dance-drumming, made me question this method of learning rhythms and how our bodies react to hearing them, especially from a Western cultural background.

Part of Vijay Iyer’s work discusses some of these same tropes that I am interested in pursuing. He draws links between the claim that perhaps music is meant to be moved to with the Anlo-Ewe culture of Ghana, West Africa.

What I want to address is the fact that sometimes in West African dance-drumming (the fact that the meaning of the word in Ewe is interchangeable between dance and the music only strengthens this argument of the different cultural approach of movement pertaining to music), one starts to move in order to recall the drum language, or rhythms that dictate those movements. In designing an experiment, would subjects be able to better remember rhythms depending on whether they learned movements alongside those same rhythms?

It is unusual in Western culture to learn rhythms based on movement, but what if we used a set of movements to help remember a rhythm, or even lyrics? We learn dance from melodies or in a counting manner (or learn concepts set to music), and I want to explore the other direction of that correlation; using movement to help trigger rhythmic recall. Subjects (without certain experience, dance, etc) would be given certain patterns to learn, accompanied by movements or alone- just the movements too- and then try to reproduce those rhythms, being allowed to move along with their attempts or not. Does this movement have to be synchronized with the beats, or dance at all? Do certain parts of the body elicit better ability of memorization? Would this method work best with polyrhythms, and only serve to confuse subjects struggling to learn movements along with a simple pattern?

Dalcroze eurhythmics is an example of possible applications of addressing these questions. While it does not answer any of them specifically, this method of teaching music to students using embodiment underlines the importance of kinesthetic movement reinforcing neural circuits involving memory, and gives us only more reason to want to fully understand its effectiveness.