VSL:SCIENCE // Breaking news: Babies are hardwired for rhythm

Babies may not understand the world they’re born into, but according to Dutch psychologists, they’re equipped from birth with one extraordinary talent: They can follow a beat.

The researchers hooked two-day-old infants up to an EKG machine, which measures the electrical signals emanating from the brain. Then they played the infants a variety of basic drumbeats — from the four-four pulse of rock and roll to the slightly irregular beat of electronica. Next, the researchers played the same rhythms but left out the downbeat. What they found was a brain signal indicating that the babies noticed the difference. Scientists had assumed that infants learned to hear rhythms, but this new research indicates that beat perception — a talent unique to humans and birds — is hardwired.

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