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There Might Be a Scientific Explanation for Some Bad Dance Moves

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"Musical brain disorder."

If your dance moves look like something out of Elaine Benes playbook, a "Seinfeld" sit-com character who did a now iconic number on the dance floor, you might be suffering from "beat deafness." But scientists say the condition is actually so rare only a few people have it.

Canadian researchers published a new study that described the inability of some individuals to synchronize movements appropriately with a tune.

People with true beat deafness, a rare condition, could not tap with a beat or change easily if the beat's rhythm was adjusted. (Photo credit: Shutterstock) People with true beat deafness, a rare condition, could not tap with a beat or change easily if the beat's rhythm was adjusted. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

“We examined beat tracking, the ability to find a regular pulse and move with it, in individuals who complained of difficulty following a beat in everyday activities like listening to music and dancing,” McGill psychology professor Caroline Palmer said in a statement.

Snapping or clapping to a beat might be easy or natural for most people, but not everyone can stick to it, the research published in The Royal Society journal Biological Sciences stated.

“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,” Palmer said. “Only when they had to move with the beat did we see a deficit, compared with the control group.”

The study looked at two confirmed beat-deaf individuals and compared them to 32 control participants. Beat-deaf people were not only significantly off tapping at a beat, but when the beat changed, they couldn't adjust like the control participants could within just a few seconds.

"The types of mistakes that beat-deaf individuals made indicated deficits in biological rhythms, including the natural frequencies or rates at which the internal oscillations pulsed, and how long it took them to respond to the new metronome tempo," Palmer said.

This would become an especially apparent issue where dancing is involved and rhythms and beats of a tune can change.

If you think you fall into this camp, consider this: the researchers believe true beat deafness is pretty rare and thus probably can't account for your poor dance skills, so keep practicing.

Jessica Phillips-Silver, a researcher with the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research in Montreal, tested dozens of people who thought they might qualify for what she called a "musical brain disorder," but only found one individual who really had the condition, NPR reported.

"I just can't figure out what's rhythm, in fact," 26-year-old Mathieu Dion, a beat-deaf person, told NPR. "I just can't hear it, or I just can't feel it."

Watch Palmer discuss the research:

(H/T: Science Alert)

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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