So You Think You Can Dance? Rats Can Bust a Move, Too, Study Finds

So You Think You Can Dance? Rats Can Bust a Move, Too, Study Finds

Do you ever worry that you’re not the best dancer and that you just can’t move to the beat? You may need to be even more self-conscious. A new study finds that even rats can get down.

Research recently published in Science Advances found that rats are capable of bobbing their heads along with a music’s beat, at the same tempo that’s optimum for people. The study was conducted by placing accelerometers on 10 rats and 20 people and measuring their head movements while they listened to music at four different speeds. The song used was Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K. 448, for which the original tempo is 132 beats per minute.

Hirokazu Takahashi, study co-author and associate professor of information science and technology at the University of Tokyo, says, “Rats displayed innate — that is, without any training or prior exposure to music — beat synchronization most distinctly within 120-140 bpm (beats per minute), to which humans also exhibit the clearest beat synchronization.”

The team had set out to test whether the optimal music tempo for beat synchronization was based on the time constant of the body, which is faster for small animals, or the time constant of the brain, which is more similar across species. The learned it was the latter, showing that animals’ brains can be useful at perceiving music. They also found that humans and rats both moved their heads in a similar rhythm.


The researchers say understanding how music impacts the brain may help explain how it elicits strong emotions and stirs our memories. The study has also led to a better understanding of the brains of rats.

Takahashi explains, “Music exerts a strong appeal to the brain and has profound effects on emotion and cognition. To utilize music effectively, we need to reveal the neural mechanism underlying this empirical fact. I am also a specialist of electrophysiology, which is concerned with electrical activity in the brain, and have been studying the auditory cortex of rats for many years.”


Takahashi says that next, he wants to learn how melody and harmony are registered by the brain.

Until then, if you have a pet rat, pump up the music for her.

This article by Michelle Milliken was first published by The Animal Rescue Site. Lead Image: ADOBE STOCK / GEORGE DOLGIKH.

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