Monkey Drumming Suggests the Origin of Music

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When monkeys drum, they activate brain networks linked with communication, new findings that suggest a common origin of primate vocal and nonvocal communication systems and shed light on the origins of language and music.

In the wild, monkeys known as macaques drum by shaking branches or thumping on dead logs. Similar behavior has been seen in non-human primates - for instance, gorillas beat their chests and clap their hands, while chimpanzees drum on tree buttresses.

Past research had uncovered areas of the brain linked with vocal communication in monkeys, findings that hint at the roots of vocal communications in primates. The discovery of drumming in rhesus macaques offers a way to examine what brain regions were linked with nonvocal communication, such as music in humans. [Humans and macaques are thought to have had a common ancestor about 25 million years ago.]

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