Background: Music perception and performance are comprehensive human cognitive functions and thus provide an excellent model system for studying human behaviour and brain function. However, the molecules involved in mediating music perception and performance are so far uncharacterized.
Objective and methods: We have applied molecular and statistical genetic approaches to unravel the biological background of music perception. We recruited 15 Finnish multigenerational families (with a total of 234 family members) via a nationwide search and defined the phenotype of all family members using three tests used in defining musical aptitude: a test for auditory structuring ability (Karma Music test; KMT) commonly used in Finland, and the Seashore pitch and time discrimination subtests (SP and ST respectively) used internationally. We calculated heritabilities and performed a genome wide variance components-based linkage scan using genotype data for 1000 microsatellite markers.
Results: The heritability estimates were 42% for KMT, 57% for SP, 21% for ST and 48% for the combined music test scores. Significant evidence of linkage was obtained on chromosome 4q22 (LOD 3.33) and suggestive evidence of linkage at 8q13-21 (LOD 2.29) with the combined music test scores using variance component (VC) linkage analyses. The major contribution for the 4q22 locus was obtained with KMT (LOD 2.91). Interestingly, a positive LOD score of 1.69 was shown at 18q, a region previously linked to dyslexia (DYX6), using combined music test scores.
Conclusion: Our results show that there is a genetic contribution to musical aptitude that is likely to be regulated by several predisposing genes/variants.
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