Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Babies 'born to dance' says York University research

Baby girl [generic]
The babies' movements were analysed by ballet dancers and scientists

Babies are pre-programmed to dance and to enjoy it, research by the University of York has shown.

The study of 120 children aged between five months and two years found that babies spontaneously started moving to music and rhythmic beats.

Scientists also found that the better the children were at moving in time with the music, the more they smiled.

It is not known why humans have developed this predisposition, researchers said.

'Natural selection'

During the experiments, babies listened to a variety of sounds including classical music, rhythmic beats and speech.

Their movements were recorded by 3D motion-capture technology and professional ballet dancers analysed the extent to which the babies matched their movements to music.

It was found that the babies moved a lot more when they heard music compared to when they heard speech and that the speed of their movement was related to the tempo of the music.

The University of York's Marcel Zentner, who led the investigation, said: "Our research suggests that it is the beat rather than other features of the music, such as the melody, that produces the response in infants.

"It remains to be understood why humans have developed this particular predisposition.

"One possibility is that it was a target of natural selection for music or that it has evolved for some other function that just happens to be relevant for music processing."

The findings were published in the online edition of the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

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