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Science Explains Why Some People Can't Dance Or Clap On Beat

Do you find it difficult to dance in sync with music at shows? How about clapping or even head nodding along with the beat? If so, you might be suffering from "beat-deafness." Beat-deafness is a diagnosable condition where you are unable to keep a beat to music, which makes it extremely difficult to dance to a rhythm.

Caroline Palmer, a professor from McGill University in Canada, said, "It's a problem in which people have a tough time either tapping or clapping or moving their head to some regular pattern." She added, "Beat-deaf individuals have an especially hard time adapting to changes in sound."

Researchers worked with a group of 34 people, including two beat-deaf individuals. The group was presented with two tasks.

The first task involved tapping evenly without any extraneous sound. All 34 individuals passed the test. Palmer said, "We found that these beat-deaf individuals were able to perceive different rhythms and tap a regular beat in the absence of sound, similarly to control group members."

The second task added a metronome. All participants were asked to tap in time with the metronome, which changed its tempo at random. The two beat-deaf participants performed much worse than the 32 other participants. 

Palmer said, "We found that these beat-deaf individuals were able to perceive different rhythms and tap a regular beat in the absence of sound, similarly to control group members. Only when they had to move with the beat did we see a deficit, compared with the control group." 

Palmer added, "Most people had no problem, but the beat-deaf individuals were quite variable in their tapping - sometimes missing the beat by a large amount," she said.

Beat-deafness was just discovered recently, and it is a rare condition. In fact, only one person suffering from the condition has been studied. Professor Palmer knows that there is much more to study about the condition. She said, "We're not sure why some people have difficulty hearing or moving to a beat, while most people don't have any difficulty. It doesn't seem to be something that's conscious, it seems to be something that is a reaction to engagement with sound."

Watch Professor Palmer talk about beat-deafness below.

[H/T: Sydney Morning HeraldInthemix]

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