Interactive Metronome & IM-Home Blog
Get the latest news on Interactive metronome training, it's application and breakthroughs as well as insights in the science behind it and the latest tips and success stories from clients and therapist using IM and IM-Home.
I have been blogging about brain-clock research at my home base (Brain Clock Blog) for many years and more recently have been blogging at the IM-Home website and blog. A problem with sharing information via blogging is that we bloggers make desired connections via hyperlinks. We insert them so the reader will read prior posts for related or background information. Often readers don’t want to take the time to bounce back and forth between linked stories...
Many of you are already familiar with Dr Kevin McGrew. You’ve read his intriguing and elucidating blog posts and you know he is affectionately referred to as The Time Doc because of his incessant interest (et..em, obsession ☺) with any and all things related to mental timing. You may also know that his unique curiosity has lead to a vast collection of literature contained at one of his many blogs, The Brain Clock Blog. Dr McGrew’s singular effort to bring together and collectively analyze the existing literature has contributed greatly to our understanding of the role of temporal processing in various human abilities and medical conditions and how interventions like the Interactive Metronome may be improving the resolution, synchronicity, and performance of our internal clock...
As summarized in prior posts, neurocognitive research suggests that the predominant gear of our minds transmission is neutral. Our mental engine is working (idling) but to those observing us, our brain is not moving—we often do not appear cognitively engaged in any complex thinking or processing.
The typical person spends up to half their time engaged in the spontaneous chasing of miscellaneous thoughts down various rabbit holes of our minds. Our thought promiscuous mind wanders here-and-there when daydreaming (“zoning out”) or becoming trapped in a cycle of negative unchecked thoughts (e.g., rumination over negative unhappy thoughts; mania; obsessions). However, the unconstrained busy or wandering mind can also produce creative insights and thoughts. An unquiet or busy mind can be good or bad depending on the demands facing the individual at any given time. More importantly, the amount of optimal mind wandering may vary for different people.
I have been reading Winfred Gallagher’s 2009 book “RAPT: Attention and the focused life.” In many of my blog posts I maintain that Interactive Metronome (IM) training requires controlled attention—focus. I have further suggested that “on demand focus” is a potentially powerful tool. By this I mean one wants to train your brain to invoke focused attention when facing cognitively demanding tasks. However, 100% laser beam focus is not attainable, nor would one want to constantly be super focused. The mind wandering of the default brain networkneeds to be shut down to focus. However, unfettered mind wandering can allow for creative thought (and also the flip side—ruminations of irrational or bad thoughts).
A Bit of Research: The important of timing in Speed Skating and the use of the Interactive Metronome
The important of timing in Speed Skating and the use of the Interactive Metronome
Researchers at Korea University College of Medicine (Park et al, 2012) recently conducted a neural imaging study of elite speed skaters to investigate whether training of complex motor skills resulted in structural changes to the cerebellum. The cerebellum responds to intense, repetitive training with increased brain mass in areas critical for skilled motor movement, in this case for control of balance, precisely coordinated movement, and visually guided movement. The authors compared the cerebellums of professional speed skaters to individuals who did not engage in regular exercise. They found that the specific skills required for speed skating that were trained repetitively resulted in structural changes to the brain that enhanced balance and coordination. They also found that the particular side of the cerebellum that was exercised repeatedly was affected (i.e., the right side due to maintaining balance on the right foot during turns). Of note, the cerebellum is also a central part of the brain’s internal timing network. The timing and synchronization of neural signals ultimately controls balance and coordination...
Timing skills play a pivotal role in the development of speech production and perception, or the ability to speak and understand the speech and/or intent of others (Kello, 2003). Not only must a child rapidly decipher the timing characteristics of each individual sound, syllable, word, and phrase in the speech stream, but for successful communication to occur there must be precisely timed coordination between centers of the brain for language and cognitive processing or thinking skills and the muscles and structures of the mouth and throat (or voice box). On top of that, a child must process and understand other information associated with what is said, such as demeanor of the person (Is he happy? Angry? Sad? ) or humor (Was he serious? Or was he joking?) Many children on the Autism Spectrum either don’t understand what you said, or don’t understand the unspoken social aspects of speech. All of this depends upon timing in the brain!!! That’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time! However, in normal development the brain’s “internal clock” functions very precisely so that children learn to speak intelligibly and understand you when you speak to them, including your mood and intent. Interactive Metronome (IM) training impacts the very critical timing centers of the brain necessary for effective communication & social skills.
Kello, C.T. (2003). Patterns of timing in the acquisition, perception, and production of speech. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 619-626.
Alertness versus focus: Same or different?
Often upon completing a brief description of the benefits of IM to an individual, which centers on the benefits of increased controlled attention or “on demand focus”, people often ask me why not just drink one of those highly advertised energy drinks. These drinks claim to increase alertness, attention, energy and focus. Drinking an energy drink is much easier when compared to committing to IM training for three weekly hour sessions over a period of 4-5 weeks
In general, the primary claim of these energy drinks is increased alertness. Thus, it is important to understand that alertness is not the same as controlled attention or focus. Given all the claims circulating in the “cognitive enhancement” market place (energy drinks, brain fitness technologies), it is important that the discourse be scientifically-based and grounded in a professional consensus of terms. So let me attempt to add some order to the increasing confusion of terms.
I first turn to the highly respected Annual Review of Psychologyfor an article published by Posner and Rosthbart (2007).Their comprehensive research review makes a distinction between three different attention networks—alerting, orienting, and executive attention. These three different attention networks are orchestrated by different areas of the brain (see figure below). They also differ in the primary neurotransmitters utilized by each system---alerting (acetylcholine), orienting (norepinephrine), and executive (dopamine). Although related and often working collaboratively, they are different forms of attention.
You are a time machine
Time and space are the two fundamental dimensions of our lives. All forms of human behavior require us to process and understand information we receive from our environment in either spatial or temporal patterns. Even though mental timing (temporal processing) research is in a stage of infancy (when compared to spatial processing) important insights regarding the human brain clock have emerged.
Below is a list (albeit incomplete) of some of the major conclusions regarding the human brain clock. The sources for these statements come from my review of the temporal processing and brain clock literature during the past five years. Most of this information has been disseminated at the Brain Clock blog or the Brain Clock Evolving Web of Knowledge (EWOK). The goal of this post is to provide a Readers Digest summary of the major conclusions. This material can serve as a set of "talking points" at your next social event where you can impress your friends and family as you explain why you use the high-tech IM "clapper" (with a cowbell tone no less) either as a provider or as client.
Our brains measure time constantly. It's hard to find any complex human behavior where mental timing is not involved. Timing is required to walk, talk, perform complex movements and coordinate information flow across the brain for complex human thought. Think about moving your arm and hand to grasp a coffee cup. The messages to perform this task originate in your brain, which is not directly connected to your arm, hands and fingers. The ability to perform the necessary motor movements is possible only because the mind and extremities are connected via timing. Precisely timed neural messages connect your brain and extremities. You are a time machine.
Timing in the brain is critical for good focus and self-control. Studies like this one by Ben-Pazi et al (2005) show that the brain’s timing mechanism is not working properly in children with ADHD, and that it is even worse in younger children with ADHD and those who lack self-control and are impulsive. Interactive Metronome is the only tool available today to effectively improve timing in the brain. By directly addressing timing skills at the level necessary for the brain to function more efficiently, the Interactive Metronome produces results.
Ben-Pazi, H., Shalev, R.S., Gross-Tsur, V. and Bergman, H. (2006). Age and medication effects on rhythmic responses in ADHD: Possible oscillatory mechanisms? Neuropsychologia, 44, 412-416.
It’s all in the Timing…..
It’s amazing in our culture how many references there are to time or timing… “His timing was just off today”...””Time is money...”Timing is everything”…the list goes on and on. It’s “time” for us to start looking at that on a more personal level. Since time is mentioned so much, it must be important, right?
These phrases all refer to timing as something important for success. When we talk about a quarterback or a pitcher on a team, we know their timing needs to be spot on for accuracy and success. This is what we need for our children with special needs too. Even when we look as simply as our sleep/wake cycles – circadian rhythms– the importance of a sleep wake cycle can make or break someone’s day. Have you ever met a person who was excited that they couldn’t fall to sleep at night? Or how about breathing? When we are comfortable, we are breathing very rhythmically. If we aren’t, we tend to pass out! Even our heart beats out a rhythm on a regular basis.
And the Beat Goes On – How Timing Affects Learning
By Beth Ardell, MPT
The tick-tock of a metronome has long been used by pianists while practicing their craft. Research now suggests that students with learning differences who “stay on beat” can increase their focus, mental processing and cognitive abilities.
Rhythm and research As infants, we very quickly develop a sense of rhythm. In the games we play and the songs we sing, rhythm is a way for children to learn about their bodies and their environment. For children with learning differences, activities using rhythm are increasingly being used as a tool to increase mental fluency, thereby improving the effectiveness of many brain and body functions. Growing evidence suggests a link between mental timekeeping and cognition and learning. Children diagnosed with dyslexia may have deficiencies in their timing and rhythm abilities, and some researchers believe the connection between time/rhythm and learning may be so significant that a student’s response time to a metronome beat may predict performance on standardized reading tests. Students have demonstrated significant improvements in broad reading and reading fluency, language processing, and even golf performance after participation in a program to improve timing. In addition, studies have indicated improvements in children with ADHD in the areas of attention, motor control, language processing, reading and ability to regulate aggression after intervention using a metronome. High school athletes, also after receiving metronome training, reported benefits such as, “I am in the right place at the right time,” and “I feel my body is more in sync with my mind.” The team participating in this training reported a significantly more successful year with improved team focus, synchronization and overall team execution. A child’s timing, the ability to feel and express steady beat, is fundamental to movement and music, and has been shown to positively correlate with an increase in mathematics and reading abilities, as well as overall school achievement.
U snooze and you lose. I had received an advanced copy of Sebastian Seung's Connectome and had hoped to make one of the first book review posts about it. I simply could not find time to read it fast enough and the professionals have already weighed in on the book...so you might as well read their reviews. I have a few minor comments.
I agree with the review in the Wall Street Journal review that this may be one of the best written books on the basics of brain science. Keeping up with contemporary neuroscience and placing it in the context of what I learned during my training and professional experiences has been hard. As I read some of the material that I consider "review" I realized that it was not just a review for me, but it helped my mind see the forrest-from-the-trees re: the neuroscience knowledge I had accumulated---but had not taken time to distill. It is a very good introductory book for the educated lay public on brain science and a nice "organizing review" for professionals.
Another review, which is more an excerpt of of the essence of the book is now also available at the brain fitness heart of the internet--SharpBrains.
My only complaint is that I had hoped it would deal more with the exciting research being completed by the Human Connectome Project. The project receives mention, but Seung then tends to dismiss the approach in favor of his ideas on how to understand the human mind at different level of the connectome. In contrast, I am increasingly excited with the research on brain networks...and ultimately the brain connectome.
Finally, you can listen and watch Seung speaking about connectomes during his TED talk.
IM is measuring and changing something real and important
No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically
Leonardo da Vinci, Treatise on Painting (1651)
Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order
Sydney Brenner (1980)
At the core of the IM intervention technology is a precise measurement system. To users and clinicians the IM measurement system is transparent. Yet, without the valid and precise measurement system, IM would not work.
In my “Brain or neural efficiency: Is it quickness or timing?” post, I advanced the hypothesis that the effectiveness of Interactive Metronome may be due to IM operating on a fundamental dimension of brain or neural efficiency, which intelligence scholars also relate to general intelligence (g). I have also suggested that this mechanism improves control of attention and may allow individuals to “quiet a busy mind”and invoke “on-demand focus.”
As an applied intelligence test developer (click here), I have been intrigued by the underlying precise millisecond-based measurement system which is the heart of IM technology. IM technology would not work if the underlying measurement system could not reliably measure differences in synchronized metronome tapping between individuals and changes within the same individual over repeated sessions.
Brain or neural efficiency: Is it quickness or timing?
It is time I return to where I first started the description of my journeyto understand Interactive Metronome (IM) and the human brain clock. To recap, I firstbecame interested in the human brain clock after consulting on a school-based IM intervention study that produced positive results. Next, I reviewed research and theory that suggested that for a brain-clock based intervention (IM) to work across multiple human performance domains, the technology must be modifying some form of jack-of-all-trades central brain mechanism. I subsequently was excited to discover research that suggested that the human brain clock could be fine-tunedvia non-drug interventions. Finally, it was the research discovery described below that sealed my fate as a scholar interested in the applied potential of brain-clock based neurotechnology interventions.
The brain as a set of networks: Fine tuning your networks
Man has always known that the brain is the center of human behavior. Early attempts at understanding which locations in the brain controlled different functions were non-scientific and included such practices asphrenology. This pseudoscience believed that by feeling the bumps of a person’s head it was possible to draw conclusions about specific brain functions and traits of the person.
Eventually brain science revealed that different regions of the brain where specialized for different specific cognitive processes (but it was not related to the phrenological brain bump maps). This has been called the modular or functional specialization view of the brain, which is grounded in the conclusion that different brain areas acted more-or-less as independent mechanisms for completing specific cognitive functions.
My personal and professional experience and task analysis of IM-Home: Focus and controlled attention.
My personal and professional experience and task analysis of IM-Home: Focus and controlled attention.
I am departing from my original plan for this post, as I want to share my personal experience with IM-Home to date. I have completed my 16th session and have been task analyzing the demands of the IM.
My first conclusion is that IM is challenging! When I tell others that I am using a high-tech "clapping" machine that uses a cowbell sound, I am typically greeted with skepticism, much like my original skepticism. It sounds simple and easy. Trust me--it is a very cognitively demanding therapy.
Being an extremely visually oriented person with expertise in the analysis of numbers (applied psychometrics and statistics), I immediately gravitated to the IM visual and numeric feedback on the computer screen. In fact, I focused almost exclusively on the numbers. I more-or-less ignored the auditory feedback in my ears. Within a week I found it relatively easy to be "on target" and when off target, quickly and automatically adjust my pace to be in synch with my tireless IM taskmaster. However, I found that when I was in a groove and being "super right- on" (exactly on the beat) for a number of consecutive trials, my mind would start to wander to random thoughts. No sooner would my mind wander for a brief second then the feedback told me that I was no longer in rhythm. This happened constantly. Just when I was feeling like I had mastered the task, my mind would always start wandering.