It?s doubtful that anyone would find a dancing cockatoo relevant to neuroscience, but we would all be wrong in assuming otherwise. Apparently, YouTube videos of a dancing cockatoo named ?Snowball? not only entertain bored college kids during their classes, (not me of course), but also give neuroscientists new insight about animals? response to music. Kathrine Haycock writes, ?No one had ever documented an animal processing and reacting to the beat of music,? noting that these YouTube videos gave clear evidence that animals could do just that.
Until just recently, understanding music was a trait that only belonged to humans; many believed that we evolved historically with the ability because it somehow helped us to survive, (though it?s hard to think of a way in which music aides in survival). These new videos are giving neuroscientists hope that animals have a circuitry similar to our own when it comes to understanding and responding to music. It?s hard to believe, though, that a simple YouTube video with a dancing bird can prove anything other than the fact that we have too much time on our hands. Ani Patel, a neurologist, apparently felt the same way and conducted an experiment to determine whether Snowball really could react to the beat of the music. By playing the same song at twelve different speeds, nine of which Snowball kept rhythm with; Patel showed that it wasn?t merely coincidence that a bird could possibly be able to understand music.
I couldn?t think of a whole lot that could be done with this information besides playing more music for my neighbor?s dog in hopes that it?d dance instead of bark, but Patel explains otherwise. According to Patel, studies involving music therapy could use the idea that animals can comprehend music to further their investigations by studying animal models as well as humans. Also, Alzheimer?s patients may benefit from these findings through animal models, which could potentially explain patients? ability to remember music rather than their own spouses (must make the spouse feel important).
I?m hoping that by using animal models to further research in these departments some breakthroughs will be found. The notion that Alzheimer?s patients remember music very well throughout the progression of the disease raises the idea that perhaps the part of the brain that stores musical memories isn?t necessarily part of the brain that is primarily affected by Alzheimer?s. Using animal models could possibly provide insight as to where exactly music is understood and stored. On the other hand, assuming that animals can process music exactly like humans just because a cockatoo named Snowball can dance to one song no matter how fast it?s played seems na´ve at best. The significance of this finding is certainly debatable, and neither jumping to conclusions nor writing off the fact that animals can understand music are good ideas. Just as with any scientific discovery, further research must be done involving animal?s ability to understand and react to music before any conclusions can be drawn. Until then, try to just enjoy the fact that a cockatoo likes to dance.