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Sci Rep. 2011;1:120. doi: 10.1038/srep00120. Epub 2011 Oct 17.

Rhythmic synchronization tapping to an audio-visual metronome in budgerigars.

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Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Science, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, 153-8902, Japan; Biolinguistics Laboratory, Brain Science Institute (BSI), Riken, Wako, Saitama, 351-0198, Japan.


In all ages and countries, music and dance have constituted a central part in human culture and communication. Recently, vocal-learning animals such as parrots and elephants have been found to share rhythmic ability with humans. Thus, we investigated the rhythmic synchronization of budgerigars, a vocal-mimicking parrot species, under controlled conditions and a systematically designed experimental paradigm as a first step in understanding the evolution of musical entrainment. We trained eight budgerigars to perform isochronous tapping tasks in which they pecked a key to the rhythm of audio-visual metronome-like stimuli. The budgerigars showed evidence of entrainment to external stimuli over a wide range of tempos. They seemed to be inherently inclined to tap at fast tempos, which have a similar time scale to the rhythm of budgerigars' natural vocalizations. We suggest that vocal learning might have contributed to their performance, which resembled that of humans.

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