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The ability to move to the rhythm of music has a genetic link

WASHINGTON: In the most recent large-scale genomic research on musicality, 69 genetic variations linked to beat timing – the ability to move in time with the rhythm of music – have been discovered.

A global team of researchers led by the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute and 23andMe has shown that humans’ ability to move in time to music (known as beat synchronization) is partially encoded in the human genome. The results were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

Many genes related to beat timing are implicated in central nervous system function. , including genes expressed very early in brain development and in areas underlying hearing and motor skills.

According to Gordon, “rhythm is not only influenced by a gene; it is influenced by several hundred genes”. The essence of human musicality is the ability to tap, clap and dance to the rhythm of music. The study also found that beat synchronization shares a 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.

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.

According to David Hinds, PhD, Researcher and Statistical Geneticist at 23andMe, “The enormous number of consenting study participants presented a unique opportunity for our group to collect even minor genetic signals.” Scientific understanding of the relationship between genetics and musicality has advanced thanks to these discoveries.

Associate Research Professor and study first author Maria Niarchou, PhD, said the findings “established new links between the genetic and neurological architecture of musical rhythm, expanding our understanding of how our genomes tune our brain to the rhythm of the music”.