Monkeys respond to music, but only to monkey music!


Cotton-top tamarinResearchers in the US have carried out the study and found that a monkey, called the cotton-top tamarin, found in South America are essentially immune to human music, but they do respond appropriately to "monkey music".

The study, published in the 'Biology Letters' journal, reported that the monkeys could tell the difference: For five minutes after hearing fear music, the monkeys displayed more symptoms of anxiety and increased their movement.

In contrast, monkeys that heard "affiliative" music reduced their movements and increased their feeding behaviour -- both signs of a calming effect.

According to the researchers, the study opens a new window into animal communication. "People have looked at animal communication in terms of conveying information -- 'I am hungry' or 'I am afraid'. But it's much more than that.

"These musical elements are inducing a relatively long-term change in behaviour of listeners. The affiliative music is making them calmer; they move less, eat and drink at a higher rate, and show less anxiety behaviour," said Charles Snowdon of University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study.

According to the researchers, this change in behaviour suggests that for cotton-top tamarins, communication is about much more than information, and similarities in communications between monkeys and people suggest deep evolutionary roots for the musical elements of speech.

"The emotional components of music and animal calls might be very similar, and from an evolutionary perspective, we are finding that the note patterns, dissonance and timing are important for communicating affective states in both animals and people," Snowdon said. 

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