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Science shows how drummers’ brains are unique

November 05 2014, 5:09 PM EST By Matt Crane


Drummers often fall victim to the “drummers are idiots” stereotype and are typically the most “replaceable” in a band. In their “Best Drummer Jokes Ever” list, Music Radar used this gem: “How is a drum solo like a sneeze? You know it's coming, but there's nothing you can do about it.”

PolyMic recently compiled a group of studies that suggest the dumb drummer stereotype is not true, and drummers are actually better problem-solvers than most and make people around them smarter in general.

Researchers at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute found a link between “intelligence, good timing and the part of the brain used for problem-solving,” reports PolyMic. In the study, drummers who were better able to keep a steady beat scored better on a 60-question intelligence test. After all, figuring out how to play in time is just a form of problem-solving in and of itself.

Going one step further, the article points out a Stanford study that shows steady rhythm actually improves cognitive function in the brain. A psychology professor at the University of Washington used rhythmic light and sound therapy on students. Their grades eventually improved. Similarly, a University of Texas medical researcher found it had effects comparable to Ritalin on school boys with ADD. There was a lasting boost in the boys’ IQ scores.

Researchers at the University Of Oxford found that drummers create a natural “high” when they play together, heightening happiness and increasing pain tolerance. PolyMic goes on to say, “Observing that high led researchers to hypothesize that drumming was integral to community-building and that sharing rhythms could be the sort of behavior necessary for the evolution of human society.”

In the final study, researchers at Harvard found that drummers use a different internal clock that moves in waves, rather than linearly. This pattern of rhythm is found in human brainwaves, sleeping heart rates, and the nerve firings in felines’ ears. So when drummers make errors, they’re just using a natural rhythm found all over the world.

PolyMic sums it up in their final paragraph:

"So the stereotypes aren't just baseless, they're also plain wrong. A lot of these studies have to do with rhythm just as much as with drumming, but drummers are more engaged with those mental elements than most. They are people tapped into a fundamental undercurrent of what it means to be human, people around whom bands and communities form."

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