Ear genes linked to music aptitude!!
IT BRINGS new meaning to having an ear for music. Musical aptitude may be partly down to genes that determine the architecture of the inner ear. We perceive sound after vibrations in the inner ear are detected by “hair cells” and transmitted to the brain as electrical signals.
There, the inferior colliculus helps to map different frequencies to different cells for processing. To identify gene variants associated with musical aptitude, Irma Järvelä at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues analysed the genomes of 767 people assessed for their ability to detect small differences between the pitch and duration of a sound, and musical pattern. The team compared the combined test scores with the prevalence of common variations in the participants’ DNA. Genetic variations most strongly associated with high scores were found near the GATA2 gene – involved in the development of inner ear hair cells and the inferior colliculus.
Another gene, PCDH15, plays a role in the hair cells’ ability to convert sound into brain signals (Molecular Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1038/MP.2014.8). Järvelä’s team now plans to study the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the development of musical aptitude in parents and their children.
(New Scientist Weekly March 2014)