Although we don’t have a statistic to throw down, we have no doubt that human beings, almost without exception, enjoy movement to music in some form. Whether it is toe-tapping, finger-snapping, ballroom shuffles or jumping up and down with both hands in the air, most people are doing it.
Unfortunately, moving to the music is not a universally instinctual act. In fact, a known condition called beat deafness, affects a small percentage of the population. People with this condition are unable to beat track, most easily measured by asking someone to tap fingers or toes in the same rhythm as music that they are listening to. To researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, the condition is a unique opportunity to study what most of us consider an intrinsic ability to find the beat. Our ability to beat track is one of the defining features of our humanity, the researchers point out, pressing us to take advantage of rare opportunities to observe the impact of an inability to beat track on an otherwise-normal person.
“Although prevalence estimates of beat deafness are not yet established, a few clinical cases have been documented” -Caroline Palmer, Pascale Lidji, and Isabelle Peretz of McGill University
The condition of beat deafness is so rare, in fact, that only two cases were observed in the recent study at McGill. Researchers concluded that the subjects’ inability to keep a beat “supports a deficit specific to error correction in perception–action coupling”.
No information was given, nor were any speculations made on possible side-effects of the inability to groove to the beat.
If you’re an EDM fan, chances are you’ve been to a big show and seen a lot of people dancing. Maybe you’ve spotted the occasional terrible dancer. Now you know there’s a perfectly good reason that some people can’t get down on the dance floor with everyone else: it could be that they’re beat-deaf!
If you think you’re the one who can’t dance, you can actually participate in scientific experiments to find out if it’s really the case! To learn more about tests of musical ability, click here. The link also instructs you to contact the researchers at McGill University if your musical abilities are poor. Even if you can’t dance, you can help the world learn what makes us humans tick.
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