Interest in music is an innate feature of individuals and societies alike, with demonstrable benefits including improving health, mood, and wellbeing, as well as bringing people together. The neural mechanisms underlying beat perception appear to be complex, involving temporally-precise communication between auditory and motor planning regions of the cortex . In humans specifically, beat perception is known to be predictive rather than reactive, flexible across a range of tempos, hierarchical, and modality-biased . While other animals have also exhibited beat perception, the range of species capable of human-like beat synchronization remains unknown [1, 2].
In a recent study published in Science Advances, Ito et al. sought to understand beat synchronization in rats, which has not been reported to date . The authors hypothesized that this behavior is determined either by the time constant of body structure and physical movement (i.e., body-cause theory) or by the brain (i.e., brain-cause theory). Although certainly interesting to animal behavioral researchers, this work also gained notoriety with more general audiences as it demonstrated rats seemingly dancing to Lady Gaga. In this blog post, we dive a little deeper into these findings and how they contribute to our understanding of cross-species beat synchronization.