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Rats Can Vibe to Music, New Study Reveals

CC BY 2.0 / Flickr / Artur Malinowski / A rat
A rat - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.11.2022
Did you think only humans can bop their heads to the rhythm and feel those beats? Not so fast.
It turns out that rats are capable of feeling the music and responding to the beats, with a new study published in Science Advances revealing that the rodents are able to vibe to Lady Gaga, Queen, and even appreciate some Mozart.

“Some of us believe that music is very special to human culture. But I believe that its origin is somehow inherited from our progenitors,” says Hirokazu Takahashi, a mechanical engineer at the University of Tokyo who studies the brain and led the study.

Aside from humans, parrots are well-known to be able to groove to music, but rats are new to join the party. In order to study the rodents' music preferences, Takahashi and his colleagues put on Mozart's "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major" (K. 448). While the music was playing, the team observed how rats responded to it - both visually and with wireless accelerometers that were surgically attached to the rats' bodies.
Among other songs the laboratory rats got to check out were Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and Michael Jackson's “Beat It." Now that's an exquisite playlist!
However, the fact that rats bop their heads to the rhythm does not actually mean they are enjoying the music. For humans, bopping one's head usually means appreciating a song, but rats don't necessarily react that way because they like what they hear.
"Music stimulus is very appealing to the brain,” Takahashi says. “But it is not evidence [that] they enjoy or they perceive music.”
Still, the scientists want to go on with the study, with Takahashi saying that he plans "to maybe reveal how other properties, like melody and harmony, also relate to the dynamics of the brain.”
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