Rats and men agree on the same tempo

Rats and men agree on the same tempo

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No cinephile has forgotten 120 beats per minute, the magnificent film by Robin Campillo, released in 2017, on the fight of the association Act Up against the AIDS pandemic. The director explained that he chose this enigmatic title in reference to the rhythm of house music, particularly popular in the 1980s in the gay community. A scientist could have specified that the designers of house music probably did not choose this tempo by chance: it is the one that allows the human body and brain to ideally synchronize movements with the musical source.

In an article published Thursday, November 10 in the journal Scientists progressa team from the University of Tokyo showed that the same was true for rats. By attaching small accelerometers to rodents’ necks and fitting them with microelectrodes, they were able to observe both head movements and the activity of neurons in the auditory cortex during a listening session. musical. With a clear conclusion: not only do these charming critters adapt to outside music, but they do so ideally in the range of 120 to 140 beats per minute (BPM).

To make sure, the researchers presented the music lovers of the day with four versions of the Sonata for two pianosMozart, at different tempos: 132 BPM, the original rate, but also 99 (75%), 264 (200%) and 528 BPM (400%). The choice of the work is due neither to the composer’s love for rodents, nor to that of Hirokazu Takahashi, the professor of electrophysiology coordinating the study, for the Viennese genius. Simply, in 1991, the French researcher Alfred Tomatis affirmed, with supporting experiments, that listening to this work boosted, at least temporarily, the intellectual performance of his listeners. The controversy over the “Mozart effect” is still ongoing. But the Sonata K488 has become a kind of experimental standard in the matter, which here delivered an unquestionable verdict: “Both in their movements and brain activity, the rats synchronized ideally with the original version”summarizes the Japanese researcher.

A tempo with deep evolutionary roots

Rats are not alone on this dancefloor. The Web abounds with videos showing parrots wiggling to music. Experiments have shown unexpected similar abilities in sea lions. A few other species of birds and mammals are knocking on the club’s door. Why not the rat, then.

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