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New study finds rats can dance in time to music like (some) humans

A behaviour previously thought to be unique to human life, dancing in time to music, appears to have some universal compatibility.

New study finds rats can dance in time to music like (some) humans

A behaviour previously thought to be unique to human life, dancing in time to music appears to have some universal compatibility. 

Scientists recently made an odd discovery, realising that rats can’t resist a good beat. Even more impressively, they can also instinctively move in time to the music – per The Guardian.

Speaking about the study, published in the journal Science Advances, Dr Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo says: “Rats displayed innate – that is, without any training or prior exposure to music – beat synchronisation,” 

He adds: “Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition.”

While there have been many previous attempts to demonstrate the deliberate act of animals dancing to music – enter Instagram & TikTok – this study is one of the first scientific investigations of the phenomenon.

During the study, 10 rats wore 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%, 100%, 200% and 400% of the original speed). The study also included twenty human volunteers.

Scientists initially thought the rats would prefer faster music as a result of their bodies, including heartbeat, working at a faster pace. However, the results showed that the rat and human participants had optimal beat synchronicity when the music was in the 120-140 beats per minute range – close to the Mozart composition’s original 132bpm. 

The results suggest we share a “sweet spot” for hitting the beat. The team also found that rats and humans jerked their heads to the rhythm in a similar way, and the level of head jerking decreased as the music was sped up.

Realising the stunning similarity across species, Takahashi comments: “Our results suggest that the optimal tempo for beat synchronisation depends on the time constant in the brain.”

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