Making sense of sound is about a lot more than just hearing: The auditory brain is suffused with connections to the cognitive, language, reward, sensory, and motor systems. In fact, auditory-motor connections are arguably among the strongest in the brain. Speech production, for example, involves motor activity that is constantly and automatically synchronizing with feedback as we hear our own voice and the sounds around us. For example, without even thinking about it, we speak more loudly if we’re in a noisy room and more softly in a quiet room.

Much of what we know about the connections between auditory and motor systems comes from studies on simple rhythmic tasks, such as beating a drum in time to a steady metronome or a sample of music. Studies have shown that children and adults who are better at maintaining a steady beat also perform better on tests of language and reading skills. Moreover, their brains processes sound more reliably. These studies suggest that a brain “in time” is primed for more efficient communication skills because it does a better job synchronizing during communication tasks.