Genetic link to move to the beat of the music

Summary: Researchers have discovered 69 genetic variants associated with musical rhythm synchronization, or the ability to move in sync with the beat of music.

Source: Vanderbilt University

The first large-scale genomic study of musicality — featured on the cover of today’s issue Nature Human behavior – identified 69 genetic variants associated with rhythm synchronization, that is, the ability to move in sync with the rhythm of music.

An international team of scientists, including the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and 23andMe, have demonstrated that the human ability to move in sync with a musical rhythm (called beat synchronization) is partially encoded in the human genome.

Many genes associated with beat timing are involved in central nervous system function, including genes expressed very early in brain development and in areas underlying auditory and motor skills, according to co-lead author Reyna Gordon, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab.

“Rhythm isn’t just influenced by a single gene, it’s influenced by several hundred genes,” Gordon said. “Tapping, clapping and dancing in sync with the rhythm of the music is at the heart of our human musicality.”

The study also found that beat synchronization shares some of its genetic architecture with other traits, including biological rhythms such as walking, breathing, and circadian patterns.

“This is new groundwork for understanding the biology underlying the relationship between musicality and other health traits,” said co-lead author Lea Davis., Associate Professor of Medicine”.

The study also found that beat synchronization shares some of its genetic architecture with other traits, including biological rhythms such as walking, breathing, and circadian patterns. Image is in public domain

23andMe’s large research dataset has provided study data from over 600,000 clients who have consented to participate in research, allowing researchers to identify genetic alleles that vary in association with the ability to synchronize participant beats.

“The large number of consenting study participants provided a unique opportunity for our group to capture even small genetic signals,” said David Hinds, PhD, researcher and statistical geneticist at 23andMe.

“These findings represent a quantum leap forward in scientific understanding of the links between genetics and musicality.”

First author Maria Niarchou, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, said the study results “established new links between the genetic and neural architecture of musical rhythm, thereby improving our understanding of the how our genomes tune our brains to the beat of music.”

Funding: The work was supported in part by NIH Director’s New Innovator Award #DP2HD098859.

About this genetic research news

Author: Craig Boerner
Source: Vanderbilt University
Contact: Craig Boerner – Vanderbilt University
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Genome-wide association study of musical beat synchronization demonstrates high polygenicity” by Reyna Gordon et al. Nature Human behavior

See also

This shows spheroids

Summary

Genome-wide association study of musical beat timing demonstrates high polygenicity

Moving in sync with the rhythm is a fundamental component of musicality. Here, we conducted a genome-wide association study to identify common genetic variants associated with beat synchronization in 606,825 individuals.

Beat synchronization exhibited a highly polygenic architecture, with 69 loci reaching genome-wide significance (P−8) and heritability based on single nucleotide polymorphism (on the responsibility scale) from 13% to 16%.

Heritability was enriched for genes expressed in brain tissue and for regulatory elements of fetal and adult brain-specific genes, highlighting the role of genes expressed in the central nervous system related to the genetic basis of the trait.

We performed validations of the self-report phenotype (through separate experiments) and the genome-wide association study (polygenic scores for beat synchronization were associated with patients classified by algorithm as musicians in the medical records of a separate biobank).

Genetic correlations with respiratory function, motor function, processing speed, and chronotype suggest a shared genetic architecture with beat synchronization and offer avenues for further phenotypic and genetic explorations.

Comments are closed.