The music we can’t hear makes us dance more


A new study by researchers at McMaster University in Canada suggests that the groove offered by deep frequencies doesn’t have to be audible. The body appreciates the sweet low-frequency tones, even if the ears don’t hear them.


Music and all its components connect with our brain on deeply emotional levels. Some aspects are almost certainly cultural; others influence our behavior at the cortical level , eliciting nostalgia when they evoke memories. Very poetic, yes. But there may also be an aspect of music that can be told not only by DJs – who already know the benefits of a deep beat – but also by science.

Cameron and his team wondered if there was something more to the sensations we experience inside us when we hear certain frequencies, something that doesn’t require our full awareness . To test their hypothesis, the researchers turned a live electronic music event into a laboratory experiment by connecting a series of very low-frequency loudspeakers, VLFs , to a range at the limit of human hearing (8 to 37 Hertz ), turning them on and off during the concert. The participants’ movements were then measured by motion capture bands.

The researchers compared measures of head movement during 2.5-minute segments of VLF activation followed by 2.5 minutes of inactivation during the event, which lasted 55 minutes. The first results determined that the sounds coming from the loudspeakers were not perceptible to the ears of the dancers and that, on average, the participants moved almost 12% more when the VLF loudspeakers were active .


Furthermore, the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire after the event which confirmed, from the answers given, that the volunteers felt the bass of the music and appreciated it, but that they did not change their movements and therefore that they had no a different perception from their usual musical experience. But and recordings of their movements have confirmed otherwise. Thus, the researchers concluded that the VLFs stimulated the dancers, but not on a conscious level.


According to Cameron, these are subcortical sensations , although it is not yet entirely clear whether this happens because the very low frequencies move the fluids of the inner ear or because they caress the tactile nerves of the skin.

“Very low frequencies can also affect vestibular sensitivity, enhancing people’s experience of movement. To identify the brain mechanisms involved, it will be necessary to examine the effects of low frequencies on the vestibular, tactile and auditory pathways”. Cameron states that he is also a drummer.

  • Undetectable very-low frequency sound increases dancing at a live concert. (


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