How does our brain use rhythm to get back in sync?

It is hard to conceptualise that our brain waves can be in sync or out of sync. Yet this concept of brain wave synchronisation is fascinating neuroscientists as they are finding that the more consistent the synchronisation, meaning the longer our brain waves can stay in sync, the more effectively we can learn. To explain this concept, Professor Bob Desimone uses five metronomes to demonstrate how five different brain waves can be out of sync and when given an underlying foundation that allows for very small movement, they can get back into sync again. This is the concept within the brain that neuroscientists are trying to understand better – what are the characteristics and mechanisms of this underlying foundation that can get our brain waves back in sync once they have become unsynchronised.

Make sure you watch until the magic moment that the five independent metronomes synchronise!

“It has been recognised for decades that the brain produces rhythmic patterns of electrical activity, colloquially known as ‘brain waves’. These rhythmic patterns reflect the activity of thousands or millions of neurons, each with its own intrinsic rhythmic tendencies. If each neuron is firing independently of its neighbours, the overall effect will appear as noise, but when they become synchronised, their combined effect can be detected as rhythmic oscillations, which in some cases are strong enough to penetrate the skull, allowing them to be recorded noninvasively with electrodes on the scalp.

In this video, McGovern Institute director Bob Desimone illustrates a mechanical analogy for how this synchronisation occurs; the ticking metronomes influence each other through the side-to-side movements of the board on which they sit, and over time this causes them to lock into a synchronous pattern.”


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