The ability to rock it to the rhythm of the beat appears to be innately -- and uniquely -- human.
PROBLEM: You know how humans are always insisting on clapping along at concerts? Beat induction -- being able to pick up a song's basic units of time -- is integral to our appreciation of music, allowing us to nod, dance, and -- if we must insist upon it -- clap without
looking entirely ridiculous being off-rhythm. Even newborn babies are able to follow along to music in this way. And even though it's invariably awkward, it might actually, from an interspecies perspective, be pretty impressive.
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the National Autonomous University of Mexico took methodology used to study beat detection in infants and adapted it for rhesus monkeys. Their two subjects, Aji and Yko, were hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain signals while they listened to rhythms played on a drum. This was a more scientific way of doing it than just seeing whether they nodded along: They would omit the downbeat from strictly metrical music and see if Aji and Yko's monkey brains registered the syncopation.
Aside from the dubious ethics of making monkeys listen to excessive drumming, the researchers did everything possible to ensure their subjects' comfort, right down to arranging it so that "the animals were seated comfortably in a monkey chair where they could freely move their hands and feet."
RESULTS: Aji and Yko were able to detect the music's basic rhythm. But omitted beats, which to humans would sound "as if the rhythm was broken, stumbled, or became strongly syncopated for a moment," went unnoticed by their monkey brains.