Dynamic allocation of attention to metrical and grouping accents in rhythmic sequences

Shu Jen Kung, Ovid J.L. Tzeng, Daisy L. Hung, Denise H. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Most people find it easy to perform rhythmic movements in synchrony with music, which reflects their ability to perceive the temporal periodicity and to allocate attention in time accordingly. Musicians and non-musicians were tested in a click localization paradigm in order to investigate how grouping and metrical accents in metrical rhythms influence attention allocation, and to reveal the effect of musical expertise on such processing. We performed two experiments in which the participants were required to listen to isochronous metrical rhythms containing superimposed clicks and then to localize the click on graphical and ruler-like representations with and without grouping structure information, respectively. Both experiments revealed metrical and grouping influences on click localization. Musical expertise improved the precision of click localization, especially when the click coincided with a metrically strong beat. Critically, although all participants located the click accurately at the beginning of an intensity group, only musicians located it precisely when it coincided with a strong beat at the end of the group. Removal of the visual cue of grouping structures enhanced these effects in musicians and reduced them in non-musicians. These results indicate that musical expertise not only enhances attention to metrical accents but also heightens sensitivity to perceptual grouping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-282
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Auditory perception
  • Beat induction
  • Click localization paradigm
  • Meter
  • Metrical structure
  • Musical training


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