Newborns are also sensitive to pitch and melody, they found.
Experts said that introducing a child to music at an early age could enhance these innate musical abilities and also help them learn to talk.
The fledgling musical talent was discovered by Hungarian researchers during a study of more than 100 boys and girls who were only one or two days old.
They played the babies music as they slept and measured their brain activity.
The researchers found that their brains computed changes in beat, tone and melody.
For instance, if a key beat was missed from a rhythmic pattern, the baby’s brain registered the change.
A change in pitch, similar to that between male and female voices, also provoked a reaction.
The Hungarian Academy of Sciences study was part of a threeyear European project on how the brain processes music and other sounds, co-ordinated by Dr Susan Denham, of Plymouth University.
She said: ‘What is perhaps most significant is that not only do babies’ brains register changes in beat, pitch and simple melodic patterns but they do so more or less automatically, as they are fast asleep during these experiments.
‘People come into the world with brains that are wired-up to detect patterns’.
Dr Denham added: ‘A lot of music reflects the rhythms and contents of speech. If you are listening to music you will also probably be more sensitive to speech rhythm.’
From the article “Babies Have a Sense of Rhythm, Which Could be Used to Help Them Develop,” in the British Daily Mail.