Music Makes You Lose Control Missy Elliot once sang a song that’s almost impossible to hear without jumping in. Scientists have now discovered that mice also find rhythmic beats irresistible, showing how they instinctively move in time to music.
This ability was previously thought to be a unique human ability and scientists say the discovery provides insights into the animal’s mind and the origins of music and dance.
“The mice showed an innate display – that is, without any training or prior exposure to music – impulse synchronization,” said Dr. Hirokazu Takahashi of the University of Tokyo.
“Music exerts a strong attraction to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition,” he added.
While there have been previous shows of animals dancing along with music – TikTok has a wealth of examples – the study is one of the first scientific investigations of the phenomenon.
In the study, published in Science Advances, 10 mice were fitted with miniature wireless accelerometers to measure the slightest head movements. Then one-minute excerpts from Mozart’s sonata for two piano figures in the D Major were played, at four different tempos: 75%, 100%, 200% and 400% of the original speed. Twenty human volunteers also participated.
Scientists thought it was possible that mice preferred faster music because their bodies, including their heartbeats, were running at a faster pace. By contrast, the brain’s time constant is surprisingly similar across species.
However, the results showed that both mice and human participants had perfect tempo synchronization when the music was in the 120-140 beats per minute (bpm) range – close to Mozart’s original formula of 132 beats per minute – indicating that we share a “wonderful setting.” to hit the beat. The team also found that mice and humans shook their heads to the beat with a similar rhythm, and that the level of head shaking decreased as the speed of the music increased.
“Our results indicate that the optimal rhythm for beat synchronization depends on constant time in the brain,” Takahashi said.
The team now plans to investigate how other musical characteristics such as melody and harmony relate to brain dynamics. “Also, as an engineer, I am interested in using music for a happy life,” Takahashi said.
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