(via the Daily Swarm) In a post yesterday, WIRED Science writer Brandon Keim has a post highlighting research that argues:
Newborn babies enter the world kicking, screaming and already able to feel the beat. They exhibit the same pattern of brain activity as adults listening to an unexpectedly disrupted rhythm, which could be a clue to the nature of the human relationship to music.
The ability to follow a beat is called beat induction. Neither chimpanzees nor bonobos — our closest primate relatives — are capable of beat induction, which is considered both a uniquely human trait and a cognitive building block of music.
If beat induction is present at birth, perhaps music is its own reward.
“We hear music, we clap along. Music becomes faster or slower, and we can dance to it,” said Honing, lead author of the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We have evidence for the first time that it’s active at birth, not learned.”
To come to their findings:
Honing’s team attached an electroencephalogram — a machine that measures general levels of brain activity — to 14 two- and three-day-old babies, then played a rock beat composed of a high hat, snare and bass drums.
Immediately after each beat, the babies’ brain activity increased. After several repetitions, the researchers dropped the bass from every fourth beat. (To hear what the babies heard, click here.) The babies’ brains showed a momentary disturbance, known as a mismatch negativity, that is experienced by adults when expected stimuli fail to occur.