Do you have two left feet? People who have trouble moving to the beat may have their GENES to blame, study finds
- According to experts, our ability to move to a rhythm is linked to our genes.
- They conducted a study to find common genes associated with rhythm
- They identified 69 different genes linked to the ability to synchronize beats
- Many were expressed in the brain, suggesting a link to brain development
Are your two left feet embarrassing you? It’s the fault of your ancestors with difficult rhythms!
According to a study, having a good rhythm and being able to move to the rhythm is at least partly explained by our genes.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne have identified 69 different genetic variants linked to the ability to keep up with a beat.
Many of these genes were expressed in the brain, with some also linked to depression, schizophrenia and developmental delay.
The research, published today in Nature Human Behaviour, says these links suggest that rhythm has a biological link to brain development.
The musicians involved in the study tended to have more of these genetic variants, suggesting that they are important for broader musicality.
Having a good rhythm and being able to move to the beat is at least partly explained by our genes, a study has found (stock image)
Examples of tests that study participants completed to help gauge their pace
WHAT IS A GENOME?
The genome is the set of DNA instructions found in a cell.
In humans, the genome consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes located in the nucleus of the cell, as well as a small chromosome in the mitochondria of the cell.
A genome contains all the information necessary for the development and functioning of an individual.
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 said whether they thought they could keep up with a beat, before measuring their perception of the beat through a task. .
They then studied the genomes of 606,825 individuals using data from 23andMe to find common genes associated with beat timing.
The results were then validated by seeing whether the beat synchronization markers found in the study would differentiate self-identified musicians from non-musicians.
Finally, the team looked for any genetic correlation between beat timing and other traits.
They found that the “heritability” of pace-determining genes was between 13% and 16%, which is similar to estimates for other complex traits.
Heritability is a measure of the extent to which differences in people’s genes explain differences in their traits, which are not explained by environment or chance.
This was enriched for genes expressed in brain tissue, further suggesting that genes expressed in the central nervous system are rhythm-related.
Genetic correlations have been found with respiratory function, motor function, processing speed and chronotype – the natural inclination towards a particular sleep-wake cycle.
This suggests that these share a genetic architecture with beat synchronization.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne have identified 69 different genetic variants linked to the ability to keep up with a beat (stock image)
Scientists have already discovered that the “perfect ear” 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 given note while singing or on an instrument.
It’s so rare that 1 in 10,000 people have it, but since they’re almost always musicians, it’s easier to find among bands and singers.
Researchers at the University of Delaware found that musicians with the musical gift shared by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach had about 50% larger auditory cortex than those without.
But it’s probably not that music training enlarges the part of the brain that processes sound.
When the researchers scanned the brains of similar musicians who had been training for more than a decade, they had the same size of auditory cortex as someone who had never picked up a musical instrument.
This suggests that musical entrainment does not influence the size of the auditory cortex, and that an enlargement, and the resulting perfect pitch, could be the result of genetics.
The perfect ear is so rare that one in 10,000 people have it, but since they are almost always musicians, it is easier to find among orchestras and singers. Beethoven (left) and Bach (right) and are among the musical geniuses with the ability
This primate has rhythm! Madagascar’s ‘singing’ lemurs have a natural ability to keep the beat, just like humans, study finds
Madagascar’s critically endangered “singing” lemurs – Indri indri – have a natural ability to keep the beat, just like us humans, a study has found.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the University of Turin studied indri songs in the tropical forests of the island country.
They found that the eerie, wailing songs of lemurs have the same kinds of universal and categorical rhythms found in human musical cultures.
Outside of humans, rhythm is a rare trait in mammals – although it can be found elsewhere in the animal kingdom, perhaps most notably in songbirds.
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Madagascar’s critically endangered “singing” lemurs – Indri indri – have a natural ability to keep the beat, just like us humans, a study has found. Pictured: a Malagasy indri