Synchronous drumming, like some addiction processes, is associated with brain reward areas.

Q: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?

A: Homeless.

OK then.

A recent report demonstrates that synchronous drumming is associated with reward regions of the brain, and also makes people nicer.  Kokal I, Engel A, Kirschner S, Keysers C (2011) Synchronized Drumming Enhances Activity in the Caudate and Facilitates Prosocial Commitment – If the Rhythm Comes Easily. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27272. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027272

Scientists in the Netherlands determined that the feeling of being united  with drumming, chanting or dancing is associated with the striatum, and particularly the caudate within the striatum. The caudate is also associated with reward-based learning, and with prosocial behavior.

Although mysterious deaths from gardening, choking on someone else’s vomit, and spontaneous combustion, are  unfortunate occupational hazards from being a drummer, is there a connection between being a drummer and being addicted? We wonder if the association with drumming and the reward system has anything to do with the reputation of rock and roll drummers as crazy, perhaps as a cause or result of addiction. Response pereveration associated with addiction has been reduced in the striatum using a d2/d3 antagonist (here). Does this mean that repetitive behavior – whether cognitive thoughts or neuromuscular – is mediated through dopaminergic channels?

Even apart from repetitive behavior, we wonder if synchronous behavior is generally mediated through a dopaminergic systems. Lots of activities involve synchronous neuromuscular activity, that we don’t want to go into here, if you know what we mean and we think you do.  And there are also neuromotor disorders involving repetitive movements. Babies who compulsively bang their heads against their cribs generally grow out of it but some grow up to appear on celebrity rehab. We note that head-banging injury is incident to some rock genres, despite  significant injury.

Moreover, subjects who were in a synchronous drumming partnership (with the experimenter) showed higher levels of prosocial behavior afterwards, than those who were in an asynchronous drumming partnership. This was measured using those sneaky Netherlandish scientists who faked dropping pencils in order to test if subjects would help with picking them up. Those subjects who demonstrated drumming synchrony with a drum partner picked up more pencils than those who were in an asynchronous drumming partnership — demonstrating that synchrony predicts later prosocial behavior. Plus, the more active the caudate with synchronous drumming partner, the more pencils picked up.

We always thought that bands threw in a drum solo only to satisfy those kids who had lizards as pets. Little did we know they were neuromarketers.

Here’s a recent video from the Percussive Society — we’d like to go to one of these events, and then ask the participants for a favor, and see what they say:

PASIC 2011 Friday Highlights from Percussive Arts Society on Vimeo.

Here is the noted “Don’t Worry Be Happy” performer, Bobby McFarrin at the World Science Festival a few years ago:

This is our new favorite drum-laden song, Prisecolinensinenciousol. We think this is a profoundly pure example of synchronized behavior, particularly given that the lyrics don’t confound the data by presenting any additional stray variables :

Update 11.19.11: Collaborative drumming used to torture Mayor Bloomberg? Whoa. Nice? Torture? Maybe Mayor B will be so confused he’ll join in.