We're not so different after all: Crocodile brain response to Bach

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield  

Published on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 at 1:25 pm EDT

Written by: Clare-Anne Canfield


He's just wondering why you didn't test with Tupac or The Highwaymen. Photo Credit: Bernard DUPONT

Many of us can appreciate the complexity of classical music (not while driving, because some of us suffer from severe carcalepsy and will crash and die immediately upon switching to the classical channel). That appreciation can be monitored with functional MRIs (fMRI), which measures brain activity by detecting fluctuations associated with blood flow. 

These fluctuation patterns are different depending on if you're listening to basic sounds or music. 
This is how you get a crocodile to be still for an fMRI. Photo Credit: Dr. Felix Ströckens

Thanks to some very careful and brave researchers, we now know that crocodiles differentiate between basic sounds and music (probably didn't need science for that). The interesting part of these findings are that brain patterns of crocodiles in response to classical music was similar to that of birds and mammals. These measurements were taken in response to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 to be exact.

This may seem like an odd study, but these findings mean that brain response to stimuli may have have evolved much earlier than scientists thought.