Do you have two left feet? People who struggle to move to the beat in time may have their GENES to blame, study shows
- Our ability to move in time to a beat is related to our genes, experts have found
- They conducted a study to find common genes related to rhythm
- They identified 69 different genes linked to the ability to beat sync
- Many were expressed in the brain, suggesting a link with brain development
Are you two left feet ashamed? Give it to your rhythmically challenged ancestors!
Having a good rhythm and being able to move with it is at least partly explained by our genes, a study shows.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne identified 69 different genetic variants associated with the ability to stay tuned.
Many of these genes were expressed in the brain, including some also related to depressionschizophrenia and developmental delay.
The study, published today in Nature Human behaviorstates that these links suggest that rhythm has a biological link with brain development.
Musicians involved in the study generally had more of these genetic variants, suggesting they are important for broader musicality.
Having a good rhythm and being able to move to the rhythm in time is at least partly explained by our genes, a study has found (stock image)
Examples of tests the study participants completed to help assess their rhythm
WHAT IS A GENOM?
The genome is the entire set of DNA instructions found in a cell
In humans, the genome consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes located in the cell nucleus, as well as a small chromosome in the cell’s mitochondria
A genome contains all the information an individual needs to develop and function
The first decoding of a human genome – completed in 2003 as part of the Human Genome Project – took 15 years and cost £2.15 billion ($3 billion)
To get their results, the researchers first asked participants to complete a “self-report” in which they say whether they think they can keep up with the beat, before measuring their rhythm perception through a task.
They then examined the genomes of 606,825 individuals using data from 23andMe to find common genes linked to beat synchronization.
The results were then validated by looking at whether the markers of beat sync found in the study would distinguish self-identified musicians from non-musicians.
Finally, the team looked for a genetic correlation between beat sync and other traits.
They found that the ‘heredity’ of the rhythm-determining genes was between 13 and 16 percent – comparable to estimates for other complex traits.
Heredity is a measure of how well differences in people’s genes account for differences in their traits, which are not explained by environment or random chance.
This was enriched for genes expressed in brain tissue, further suggesting that the genes expressed by the central nervous system are linked to rhythm.
Genetic correlations were found with respiratory function, motor function, processing speed and chronotype – the natural tendency towards a particular sleep-wake cycle.
This suggests that they share genetic architecture with beat synchronization.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne have identified 69 different genetic variants linked to the ability to stay tuned (stock image)
Scientists have previously discovered that “perfect pitch” may also be in the genes, rather than something you can learn.
Perfect pitch is the ability to recognize the pitch of a note played, or to produce a particular note through singing or on an instrument.
It’s so rare that only one in 10,000 people has it, but since these are almost always musicians, it’s easier to find among orchestras and singers.
Researchers at the University of Delaware found that musicians with the musical gift of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach have an auditory cortex about 50 percent larger than those without.
But it’s probably not the case that musical training increases the part of the brain that processes sound.
When researchers scanned the brains of similar musicians who had trained for more than a decade, they had the same auditory cortex as someone who had never picked up a musical instrument.
This suggests that musical training does not affect the size of the auditory cortex, and that an enlarged and resulting perfect pitch could be a result of genetics.
Perfect pitch is so rare that only one in 10,000 people has it, but since these are almost always musicians, it is easier to find among orchestras and singers. Beethoven (left) and Bach (right) and are among the musical geniuses blessed with the ability
That primate has rhythm! ‘Singing’ lemurs in Madagascar have a natural ability to maintain a rhythm, just like humans, study finds
Madagascar critically endangered ‘singing’ lemurs — Indri indri — have a natural ability to maintain a rhythm, just like us humans, a study finds.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the University of Turin studied the songs of indri in the rainforests of the island country.
They found that the lemurs’ strange, whining songs have the same kind of universal, categorical rhythms as they do in human musical cultures.
Outside of humans, having rhythm is a rare trait in mammals – although it can be found elsewhere in the animal kingdom, perhaps most notably in songbirds†
read more here
Madagascar’s critically endangered ‘singing’ lemurs – Indri indri – have a natural ability to maintain a rhythm, just like us humans, a study finds. Pictured: a Madagascar indri
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