Tuesday, 27 Jan, 2009 Science

Babies Are Born With a Sense of Rhythm


Scientists revealed that newborn babies come into this world with a sense of rhythm. Experts believe that one day they will be able to detect abnormal brain development at an early stage by testing the beat perception of the babies.

Being less than a year old, babies usually bounce or applaud to a rhythm. Researchers attempted to find out whether babies learn beat perception after birth or they are born with this perception.

With the help of Electroencephalography (EEG), a group of researchers led by Istvan Winkler from the Institute for Psychology in Budapest, Hungary, and Henkjan Honing from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands analyzed newborns' beat perception. The EEG allows scientists to estimate the electrical brain reactions to sounds; this includes the periods when babies are asleep.

The group of scientists played a rock drum rhythm to fourteen newborns who were 2 or 3 days old. There were periods when the sequence omitted a sound but the rhythm was not broken. However, a number of omissions disrupted the rhythm. Researchers noticed that when an omitted note broke the rhythm, there was a key brain reaction showing that the babies' sensory anticipations were contradicted, which means that they can feel a rhythm and know when the next beat will occur. "Beat perception is there right from birth," concludes one of the lead researchers.

Scientists look forward to discover whether beat perception in babies can be a sign of later problems linked with speech and communication, both requiring a good sense of rhythm as well. In case scientists are right, vulnerable babies could be identified from the first day.

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