New experiment makes Lady Gaga and Queen superfans out of head-bopping rats

A new study has discovered that rats can move to the rhythm of music, a behavioural trait previously thought to only exist among humans. 

Conducted by researchers at the University of Tokyo, the study subjected ten rats to a randomised playlist, and fitted the animals with wireless accelerometers to measure their corresponding head movements. The study, which also enlisted 20 human participants, found that rats “displayed innate beat synchronisation,” researcher Hirokazu Takahashi said.

Takahashi went on to explain the purpose of the study, explaining that results provide insight into animal minds and the origins of dance and music. Researchers played a range of songs at different speeds and tempos, finding that both humans and rats moved their heads to a similar rhythm of 120 to 140 beats per minute. The head-popping decelerated when the music was sped up.

Credit: University of Tokyo

In addition to Mozart, the rats seemingly took an affinity for more contemporary tunes, with researchers also playing Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust and Michael Jackson’s Beat It. The rats were also subjected to music by Maroon 5 (poor things). Elaborating on the practical use of the findings, Takahashi said the study could point to the connection between music and brain dynamics, as well as the brain’s predisposition to fine arts. 

I would like to reveal how other musical properties such as melody and harmony relate to the dynamics of the brain,” Takahashi said. “I am also interested in how, why and what mechanisms of the brain create human cultural fields such as fine art, music, science, technology and religion. I believe that this question is the key to understanding how the brain works and developing the next-generation of AI”.    

Lady Gaga Performing
Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Not since the Pixar classic Ratatouille have rats displayed such captivating autonomy. Catch the animal subjects in all their head-banging glory in the video above (not to be confused with Australian rock outfit Dune Rats).