Researchers say the study suggests a biological basis for intelligence related to the regularity of nerve cell activity in the brain.
“We know that precision in nerve cell activity down to the millisecond is important for processing information and for processes related to learning,” Fredrik Ullén of the Karolinska Institute said in a statement.
For the study, a team of researchers from Umeå University and Karolinska asked a group of 34 right-handed men between 19 and 49-years-old tap a drumstick at different intervals.
The subjects, none of whom had any formal musical training, were first played a beat and then asked to match it with their own tapping.
After a short while, the recorded beat was stopped, and the subjects were measured at how closely their continued tapping matched the original beat.
The tapping test was then followed by an intelligence test.
Subjects who had the smallest variations in their drumming speed during the experiment also ended up with best scores on the tests.
In addition, the researchers found a relationship between high intelligence, the ability to hold a rhythm, and the volume of white matter found in the frontal lobes of the subjects’ brains.
“Taken together, it means that one of the factors behind what we call intelligence has a biological basis in the number of nerve connections in the brain’s frontal lobe and the stability in the brain’s nerve activity which results,” said Ullén.
The findings confirm suspicions long held by heavy metal drummer Mikkey Dee from Motörhead about his own intelligence..
“I’ve wondered why its so easy for me to learn things,” he said to the newspaper Metro.
“I was never into school that much but I can nevertheless do pretty well with maths, for example.”