Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Researchers find rats move to the same tempos in music that humans like

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Our next story is about the power of a good beat - power that can reach beyond the human species. So can I get some music, please?

(SOUNDBITE OF LADY GAGA SONG, "BORN THIS WAY")

CHANG: All right. If you're already tapping your feet, well...

GYORGY BUZSAKI: You know, we jokingly say the auditory system of a human is wired to your legs. You can't help when the beat comes in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORN THIS WAY")

LADY GAGA: (Singing) There's nothin' wrong with lovin' who you are...

CHANG: Gyorgy Buzsaki is a neuroscientist at New York University.

BUZSAKI: This wiring was thought to be so special. And how come it's not present in other species? Why is that not there? And it's not there because we haven't looked carefully until this moment.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

He's referring to new research from scientists at the University of Tokyo who found that the same tempos that get people going, like the beat of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," appear to get rats moving, too. Hirokazu Takahashi led the work.

HIROKAZU TAKAHASHI: Music has a very special, appealing power to the brain. And my motivation is to reveal why.

CHANG: The researchers played the rats pop songs, like "Born This Way," along with a mozart sonata played back at different speeds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: Meanwhile, the scientists tracked the rats head movements and electrical activity in their brains, and they found that rats' brains and bodies seemed to synchronize most to songs in the range of 120 to 140 beats per minute. That's also the range that resonates most with us humans.

CHANG: But Takahashi was careful to say the rats were not necessarily dancing.

TAKAHASHI: (Laughter) No, no. I'm much more conservative about that.

CHANG: The details are in the journal Science Advances.

SHAPIRO: Aniruddh Patel of Tufts University was not involved in the work. He says it helps narrow debate about why animals synchronize with certain tempos. Is it body size or something more universal built into our brains?

ANIRUDDH PATEL: Some animals are much smaller and so they have faster body rhythms. Like, they walk faster and their heartbeat is faster. And so you might think, oh, they're going to like faster rhythms. But this study says, no, that's not how it actually pans out. And that maybe suggests there's some fundamental things about rhythm that are shared between very different species.

CHANG: Takahashi points out that music goes way beyond rhythm, so he will investigate how rats respond to melody and harmony next. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.