Scientists have discovered that rats are able to perceive the beat of music and bop their heads along to the rhythm – an attribute previously thought to exist only in humans.
The music included Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, Beat It by Michael Jackson and Sugar by Maroon 5.
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Minute-long sections of the songs were played at four different speeds for the 10 rats and 20 human participants. The study found that both rats’ and humans had the best beat synchronization in the range of 120 to 140 beats per minute.
Scientists in the experiment had hoped to figure out whether small animals like rats would prefer a faster beat to humans, thinking it would correlate with physical factors like heartbeat and body size. However, the study found that rats preferred beats close to 120 beats per minute, similar to humans.
“Rats displayed innate — that is, without any training or prior exposure to music — beat synchronization most distinctly within 120-140 bpm (beats per minute), to which humans also exhibit the clearest beat synchronization,” Associate Professor Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo said in a press release.
The team also discovered that both rats and humans moved their heats to the beat in a similar rhythm, and that the level of head jerking decreased as the music was sped up.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on innate beat synchronization in animals that was not achieved through training or musical exposure,” Takahashi said.
Researchers on the project said their discovery feels like an insight into the creation of music itself.
“Next, I would like to reveal how other musical properties such as melody and harmony relate to the dynamics of the brain. I am also interested in how, why and what mechanisms of the brain create human cultural fields such as fine art, music, science, technology and religion,” said Takahashi.
“I believe that this question is the key to understand how the brain works and develop the next-generation AI (artificial intelligence). Also, as an engineer, I am interested in the use of music for a happy life.”