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A Tablet-Based Assessment of Rhythmic Ability.

Abstract

The exponential rise in use of mobile consumer electronics has presented a great potential for research to be conducted remotely, with participants numbering several orders of magnitude greater than a typical research paradigm. Here, we attempt to demonstrate the validity and reliability of using a consumer game-engine to create software presented on a mobile tablet to assess sensorimotor synchronization, a proxy of rhythmic ability. Our goal was to ascertain whether previously observed research results can be replicated, rather than assess whether a mobile tablet achieves comparable performance to a desktop computer. To achieve this, younger (aged 18-35 years) and older (aged 60-80 years) adult musicians and non-musicians were recruited to play a custom-designed sensorimotor synchronization assessment on a mobile tablet in a controlled laboratory environment. To assess reliability, participants performed the assessment twice, separated by a week, and an intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) was calculated. Results supported the validity of this approach to assessing rhythmic abilities by replicating previously observed results. Specifically, musicians performed better than non-musicians, and younger adults performed better than older adults. Participants also performed best when the tempo was in the range of previously-identified preferred tempos, when the stimuli included both audio and visual information, and when synchronizing on-beat compared to off-beat or continuation (self-paced) synchronization. Additionally, high ICC values (>0.75) suggested excellent test-retest reliability. Together, these results support the notion that consumer electronics running software built with a game engine may serve as a valuable resource for remote, mobile-based data collection of rhythmic abilities.

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