If one hypothesizes rhythmic perception as a process employing oscillatory circuits in the brain that entrain to low-frequency periodicities in the neural firings evoked by an acoustic signal, then among the conceptually purest probes of those oscillatory circuits would be acoustic signals with only simple sinusoidal periodicities in the appropriate frequency range (perhaps from 0.3 Hz to 20 Hz). Such signals can be produced by the low-frequency amplitude modulation of an audible carrier wave by one or more sinusoids. The resulting rhythms are “smooth” in that their amplitude envelopes are smoothly varying with no obvious points of onset or offset. Because preliminary experiments with smooth rhythms have produced some unexpected results, and because smooth rhythms can be precisely controlled and varied (including, for example, the digital filtering of their Fourier components in the frequency domain), they are proposed as versatile stimuli for studies in rhythmic perception.
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