Rats like dancing to Lady Gaga and Mozart

This is another intriguing scientific study which this time is on ‘beat synchronisation’ by rats as they demonstrate that they can pick out the beat in music and ‘dance to it’ by moving their heads in time even if they’ve never heard it before.

The researchers fitted rats with wireless miniature accelerometers (a device that measures the vibration, or acceleration of motion of a structure). This device was able to measure the slightest head movement. They fitted a similar but human-scaled device to human participants.

Rats like music and move to it like humans
Rats like music and move to it like humans. Image: MikeB

They played: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Maroon 5’s Sugar and Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K448 at four different tempos, according to The Times report (Sat Nov. 12th, 2022).

The lead author and researcher, Professor Hirokazu Takahashi, of the University of Tokyo said:

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on innate beat synchronisation in animals that was not achieved through training or musical exposure”.

The accelerometers measured if the rats and humans moved to the different types of music when it was played at four different tempos for one-minute excerpts. The tempo variations were a quarter slower, original tempo, twice as fast and four times faster.

They found that rats’ beat synchronicity was clearest at 120-140 beats per minute (bpm). Mozart’s sonata is mid-range for this preference at 132 bpm.

They also found that humans and rats moved their heads in a similar way when following the beat.

Takahashi said: “Rats displayed innate beat synchronisation most distinctly within 120-140 bpm. Humans were the same.

Similar across all species is the speed at which they can respond to something which is dependent on the time constant in the brain. This results in an optimum nodding tempo.

It is believed that the abilities of species of animal in interacting auditory and motor systems is widespread in animals.

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