Attention in Children is Related to Interpersonal Timing

TDLC researchers led by Victor Minces and Alexander Khalil, have found that children’s ability at interpersonal timing, or synchrony, is related to attention as measured by cognitive tests and teacher questionnaires.

The ability to synchronize supports all face-to-face interaction and is thus critical to learning. The finding that this ability is related to attention not only helps scientists better understand the cognitive mechanisms of attention but also suggests further investigation into whether activities that improve synchrony, might also improve attention, and so improve education outcomes for those with attention deficits.

Scientists adapted techniques normally used to measure synchronous neurons to measure children playing specially-wired percussion instruments in order to measure how well each child is able to synchronize rhythmically in a group music class. The results of these measurements were then compared with results of cognitive measures of attention and teacher questionnaires. A significant correlation was found across the full range of performance. Previously, poor timing ability linked to a number of disorders, including especially Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. This study finds that the relation between timing and attention also exists in non-clinical populations.

Photos: Children at the Museum School, playing percussion instruments wired with piezoelectric elements to allow recording of synchrony. photos: A. Khalil; TDLC.

To view video of children playing instruments while recording synchrony:

Khalil, A. K., Minces, V., McLoughlin, G., & Chiba, A. (2013). Group rhythmic synchrony and attention in children. Front Psychol, 4, 564. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00564