VUMC researches the link between musical rhythm and our genes

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

If you’ve ever started drumming on the steering wheel while driving down Lower Broadway and hearing another cover of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” ring out a honky tonk, you’ve got your DNA to thank.

State of play: The pioneering study, published last week, was conducted by researchers at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute in collaboration with personal genomics company 23andMe.

  • VUMC billed the work as the “first large-scale, genome-wide association study of a musical trait”.

Between the lines: The study used data from more than 600,000 participants to analyze genetic information that varied in association with people’s musical rhythm.

  • The findings underscore the link between our biology and our musical skills, although the researchers pointed out that environmental factors also play a role in rhythm development.

The plot: Researchers have identified 69 genetic variants associated with beat synchronization, or their ability to move in time with the beat of music, according to a release from VUMC.

  • The study found that beat synchronization shared some of the genetic underpinnings of biological rhythms such as walking and breathing.

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