Genetic link found for musical rhythm
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – Scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have discovered genetic links to the ability to move in time to musical rhythm.
A new study by researchers at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute, in collaboration with personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe, has found that there are 69 genetic variants associated with the ability to move in sync with a rhythm.
“Tapping, clapping and dancing in sync with the rhythm – the pulse – of music is central to our human musicality,” said Reyna Gordon, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head Surgery and neck and co-director of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab.
The study is the first large-scale, genome-wide association study of a musical trait.
“Rhythm isn’t just influenced by a single gene — it’s influenced by several hundred genes,” Gordon said.
Many genetic variants associated with beat synchronization are found in or near genes involved in neuronal function and early brain development.
The study also found that beat synchronization shares some of the same genetic architecture involved in biological rhythms such as walking, breathing and sleeping.
“The processing of musical rhythms has intriguing links to other aspects of cognition, including speech processing, and plays a key role in the positive effect of music on certain neurological disorders, including walking. in Parkinson’s disease,” said Aniruddh D. Patel, professor of psychology at Tufts. University, an expert not involved in the study.
Data from more than 600,000 consenting research participants was used, thanks to 23andMe’s extensive research dataset.
“Using such a large dataset allows researchers to find new insights into the biology and evolutionary underpinnings of musicality. While recent years have seen a growth in neuroscientific and developmental work on the treatment of beats, the current study takes the biological study of beat processing to a new level,” Patel added.