Rats have capacity for rhythm and can keep time to Mozart works, new study reveals

14 November 2022, 13:36 | Updated: 17 November 2022, 17:06

Study finds rats have rhythm and can keep the beat to Mozart
Study finds rats have rhythm and can keep the beat to Mozart. Picture: Alamy

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Scientists have found that rats enjoy the rhythm of Mozart’s music and will bop along to it when given the chance.

Rats have a sense of rhythm according to a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Tokyo.

In the study, published in the journal Science Advances, 10 rats were fitted with wireless, miniature accelerometers which were used to measure the slightest head movements.

They were played one-minute excerpts from Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, at four different tempos: 75 percent, 100 percent, 200 percent and 400 percent of the original speed.

While the main study focused on the Mozart sonata (watch it performed spectacularly by Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich below), four other tracks were also played: ‘Born this Way’ by Lady Gaga, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen, ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson and ‘Sugar’ by Maroon 5.

Rats were found to easily keep in time with songs played at 132BPM, but they enjoyed it less when the music was slowed down or sped up.

Read more: Dolphins behave better after listening to Bach and Beethoven, study finds

Barenboim & Argerich : Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos, K.448

Lead author of the study, Professor Hirokazu Takahashi, said: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on innate beat synchronisation 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 synchronisation most distinctly within 120-140 bpm – to which humans also exhibit the clearest beat synchronisation.

“The auditory cortex, the region of our brain that processes sound, was also tuned to 120-140 bpm, which we were able to explain using our mathematical model of brain adaptation.”

The Japanese study compared the results from the rhythmic rodents with 20 human volunteers, and detected a sense of rhythm in both species. Professor Takahashi added that similar, past studies have suggested the ability to enjoy a beat is common in other animals too.

“Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition,” Takahashi added.

“After conducting our research with 20 human participants and 10 rats, our results suggest the optimal tempo for beat synchronisation depends on the time constant in the brain.

“This demonstrates the animal brain can be useful in elucidating the perceptual mechanisms of music.”