On the role and origin of isochrony in human rhythmic entrainment.
Wherever human beings live, and however they may organise their affairs, they gather from time to time to sing and dance together, often in a ritual setting. In doing so they synchronise their voices and bodily movements to a shared, repeating interval of time, the musical pulse, beat or tactus. We take this capacity to "entrain" to an evenly paced stimulus (isochrony) so much for granted that it may come as a surprise to learn that from a biological point of view such behaviour is exceptional. But it is not altogether unique. There are a number of other species, none of them closely related to humans, that also engage in group synchrony of behaviour through entrainment to an isochronous pulse. Despite their evolutionary distance from us their life circumstances throw an interesting light on the possible origin and nature of our own entrainment capacity. Here we consider this capacity in terms of its possible origin, functional mechanisms, and ontogenetic development.