Rats can bop their heads to a rhythm and like music by Lady Gaga, a study discovers

Rats can bop their heads to a rhythm and like music by Lady Gaga, a study discovers
A rat (L), Lady Gaga (R).
A rat (L), Lady Gaga (R).Getty Images, ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
  • Rats can bop their heads to a rhythm like humans, a study has found.

  • Researchers monitored rats' head movements while they were played music at different tempos.

  • The animals were best at keeping in time with beats between 120 and 140 bpm, similar to humans.

Rats can bop their heads to a rhythm as humans can, and like moving to music by Queen, Lady Gaga, and Mozart, scientists have discovered.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo fitted 10 rats with wireless accelerometers that could detect the slightest head movements and monitored them while playing several pieces of music, according to the study published in the journal Science Advances.

The music included Lady Gaga's Born This Way, Queen's Another One Bites the Dust, and a Mozart piano sonata, as well as Beat It by Michael Jackson and Sugar by Maroon 5.

One-minute-long snippets of the songs were played at four different speeds, and the same was done with 20 human participants.

The results found that the rats' had the best beat synchronization in the range of 120-140 beats per minute and that rats and humans bopped their heads to the beats in a similar way.

This skill was previously thought to be unique to humans, according to the researchers.

The lead author of the study, Professor Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo, said in a press release: "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on innate beat synchronization in animals that was not achieved through training or musical exposure.

"Rats displayed innate — that is, without any training or prior exposure to music — beat synchronization most distinctly within 120-140bpm, to which humans also exhibit the clearest beat synchronization," he said.

Scientists went into the experiment hoping to determine whether the optimal rhythm for small animals like rats would be a lot faster than humans, as it would correlate with physical factors like their heartbeat and body size, or whether it was linked to the time constant of the brain, which would mean it would be similar across all species.

The study found that rats preferred beats close to 120bpm, similar to humans, suggesting that the best tempo for beat synchronization depends on the time constant in the brain, the study author said.

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