Music makes you lose control, Missy Elliott once sang on a hit that is almost impossible to hear without bopping along. Now scientists have discovered that rats also find rhythmic beats irresistible, showing how they instinctively move in time to music.
This ability was previously thought to be uniquely human and scientists say the discovery provides insights into the animal mind and the origins of music and dance.
“Rats displayed innate — that is, without any training or prior exposure to music — beat synchronization,” said Dr Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo.
Photo: Pixabay 照片：Pixabay
“Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition,” he added.
While there have been previous demonstrations of animals dancing along to music — TikTok has a wealth of examples — the study is one of the first scientific investigations of the phenomenon.
In the study, published in the journal Science Advances, 10 rats were fitted with wireless, miniature accelerometers to measure the slightest head movements. They were then played one-minute excerpts from Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, at four different tempos: 75 percent, 100 percent, 200 percent and 400 percent of the original speed. 20 human volunteers also participated.
Photo: Pixabay 照片：Pixabay
The scientists thought it possible that rats would prefer faster music, as their bodies, including heartbeat, work at a faster pace. By contrast, the time constant of the brain is surprisingly similar across species.
However, the results showed that both the rat and human participants had optimal beat synchronicity when the music was in the 120 to 140 beats per minute (bpm) range — close to the Mozart composition’s original 132bpm — suggesting we share a “sweet spot” for hitting the beat. The team also found that rats and humans jerked their heads to the beat in a similar rhythm, and that the level of head jerking decreased the more that the music was sped up.
“Our results suggest that the optimal tempo for beat synchronization depends on the time constant in the brain,” said Takahashi.
The team now plans to investigate how other musical properties such as melody and harmony relate to the dynamics of the brain. “Also, as an engineer, I am interested in the use of music for a happy life,” said Takahashi.
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對話 Dialogue 小實：馬克，你看！我和我家人上個週末去臺東玩。 Xiǎoshí: Mǎkè, nǐ kàn! Wǒ hàn wǒ jiārén shàng ge zhōumò qù Táidōng wán. 馬克：哇！好漂亮的照片，你家有這麼多人啊？ Mǎkè: Wa! Hǎo piàoliàng de zhàopiàn, nǐ jiā yǒu zhème duō rén a? 小實：是啊！都是親戚。這個是我的大阿姨。 Xiǎoshí: Shì a! Dōu shì qīnqī. Zhèige shì wǒ de dà āyí. 馬克：這個看起來比較年輕的，是你的二阿姨嗎？ Mǎkè: Zhèige kàn qǐlái bǐjiào niánqīng de, shì nǐ de èr āyí ma? 小實：哦，不是！那是我的姑姑。 Xiǎoshí: WÓ, bùshì! Nà shì wǒ de gūgu. 馬克：「姑姑」和「阿姨」……不一樣嗎？ Mǎkè: “Gūgu” hàn “āyí”… bù yíyàng ma? 小實：嗯！姑姑是爸爸的姐妹，阿姨是媽媽的姐妹。 Xiǎoshí: En! “Gūgu” shì bàba de jiěmèi, “āyí” shì māma de jiěmèi. 馬克：中文的家族稱謂太複雜了！ Mǎkè: Zhōngwén de jiāzú chēngwèi tài fùzá le! 小實：有時候，我們也要想一下才知道怎麼說呢！ Xiǎoshí: Yǒu shíhòu, wǒmen yě yào xiǎng yíxià cái zhīdào zěnme shuō ne! 翻譯 Translation Xiaoshi Mark, look! My family and I