Rats move their bodies to the beat of catchy music just like people, Japanese researchers have found.
The research team at the University of Tokyo arrived at the conclusion after observing how the rodents respond to music by Mozart, Queen and Lady Gaga. For the study, the scientists attached small sensors to rats to detect their movements while listening to music. Associate professor Hirokazu Takahashi, a member of the research team, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the research was aimed at establishing how music affects the brain.
“We all believe that music has magical powers, but we don’t know anything about its mechanisms,” he said. “We wanted to find out what kind of sound connections appeal to the brain, without the influence of emotion or memory.”
The study, published in the journal Science Advances last week, mainly used Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K.448” at four different tempos. However, the songs “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen were also chosen by Takahashi’s students to be played.
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Video footage of the study shows the rats with overlaid dots representing the points on their heads that were analyzed for movement while listening to the songs.
While the rodents only made very minimal movements, the scientists were able to infer that the brains of rodents are equipped to respond to music, a feature previously attributed only to humans. The rats were observed to be in-sync with the music and appear to exhibit some predictive processing.
The scientists noted that the movements were the most obvious for music that played in the range of 120-140 beats per minute, the same range people respond to.
According to the researchers, such a response appears to be consistent among different species.
“Music moves the body. It goes beyond the auditory system and affects the motor system… the power of sound is that great,” Takahashi told AFP.
Takahashi noted that the lack of movement sensors in previous studies on the same subject limited their findings.
According to Takahashi, he intends to look into the effects of melody and harmony on the brain in future studies.