Mice can bang their heads to the beat

Humans aren’t the only animals known to move to a musical beat.

For example, parrots do this too. And now the mice have been noticed They jump their heads In conjunction with the music of Mozart, Lady Gaga, Queen, and others, researchers reported on November 11 in Science advances.

Moreover, animals seem to respond at the same pace that humans make to click. The study could help reveal the evolutionary underpinnings of the human sense of rhythm.

Some of us think that music is very specific to human culture. But I think its origin is somehow inherited from our ancestors,” says Hirokazu Takahashi, a mechanical engineer at the University of Tokyo who studies how the brain works.

The ability to recognize the beat of a song and synchronize one’s body movements with it is known as tempo synchronization. It is a mystery why some species, such as humans and parrotshas the innate ability and others do not (SN: 4/30/09).

For lab rats, Takahashi and colleagues set on Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major” (K. 448). The team sped up the tempo, as well as played it at its normal speed, monitoring the mice’s movements not only visually, but also using wireless accelerometers, which were surgically placed on the mice.

The team initially thought that body size might determine the pace at which any head-turning was caused. The researchers hypothesized that humans tend to tap their feet to music that’s between 120 and 140 beats per minute, but perhaps a small animal like a rat would need a faster tempo to elicit the same reaction.

“There are a lot of reasons to think maybe [rats] Faster rhythms are preferred. But that is not what they find. This is interesting,” says Anirudh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, who was not involved in this research. He studies music perception, and the mental processes involved in perceiving and responding to music.

In the video recordings, the mice’s head bobbing was most noticeable when the sonata played its usual tempo, around 132 beats per minute. The same was true for 20 people who listened through headphones with accelerometers.

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For both humans and rats, head turning was constant at about 120 to 140 bpm. When the music was played faster or slower, there was no head jitter. Takahashi says this suggests that there is something fundamental about how an animal’s brain is tuned, or wired, in response to rhythm.

The team also played some of their favorite pop songs to the mice, including Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and saw a similar response.

The researchers used motion capture cameras to track how the mice moved to a musical beat. The colored dots indicate markers that helped the cameras track the rodents’ precise movements as they heard various pieces of music, including Mozart’s Piano Sonata and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

While Patel agrees that rats seem to prefer beats that humans like, he’s not convinced that rats can sync to the beat the way humans do.

“I think this study actually raises more questions than answers in a sense,” says Patel. Humans and parrots show impulsive synchrony through large, voluntary movements such as head bobbing, dancing, or foot tapping. The mice displayed very small movements that had to be captured with special devices such as a head-mounted accelerometer and motion capture technology.

The behavior was also more pronounced when the researchers got the mice to stand on their hind legs by holding their water bottle high, compared to standing on all fours.

“The basic nature of perceiving beats and syncopation is that you anticipate the timing of the rhythm and move predictably,” he says. “So, we’re hitting right on or just before the beat.” Because the mice’s movements are so small, it is not clear whether the mice can predict the blows or if they just react to them.

Both Takahashi and Patel confirm that this study does Not It shows that mice love to dance to human music. “Musical stimulation is very attractive to the brain,” says Takahashi. But this is not evidence [that] They enjoy or perceive music.”

Next, Takahashi looks to find out what other aspects of music we might share with rodents and other animals. “Maybe I would like to uncover how other characteristics, such as melody and harmony, also relate to brain dynamics.”

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