Courtesy of the University of Helsinki and World Science staff
People’s interest in music may be related to a gene that has also been found to be associated with musical aptitude – and singing in birds, a new study reports.
The findings also add to growing evidence that music draws on a system of brain wiring that more generally promotes attachment behaviours, according to the researchers, Irma Järvelä of the University of Helsinki and colleagues.
‘The results suggest that willingness to listen to music is related to neurobiological pathways affecting social affiliation and communication,’ they wrote, reporting their findings in the 10 February advance online edition of the Journal of Human Genetics.
Music’s many uses
Music is part of all known cultures, Järvelä and colleague noted. Similarities between human and animal song have been detected, they argue: both contain a message, and an intention that reflects emotional state and is often interpreted correctly even among different species. Several music-related behaviours also promote attachment, they added: lullabies are meant to bond a parent with an infant, and singing or playing music together is based on teamwork and may enhance group cohesion.
The researchers collected data on 437 Finns from 31 families, aged eight to 93, with musical education ranging from none to extensive. The participants were surveyed about their music listening habits and tested in three ways for musical aptitude. Their DNA was also analysed.
Willingness to listen to music was associated with variants in a gene called arginine vasopressin receptor 1A, the investigators found. The gene serves to help transmit a hormone called arginine vasopressin in the brain.
Vasotocin promotes a stable stereotyped song pattern
The Helsinki scientists had also found association between the same gene and musical aptitude in findings reported in the May 2009 issue of the research journal PLoS One. Moreover, the version of that chemical known in birds and other species was found to increase dawn singing in male field sparrows in a study described in the August 1998 edition of the journal Hormones and Behavior. Dutch research detailed in the European Journal of Pharmacology for last January also found that manipulating levels of the substance, called vasotocin, in songbirds ‘promotes acquisition of a stable stereotyped song pattern.’ Vasotocin also influences breeding in lizards and fish, Järvelä and colleagues said.
The results ‘provide a molecular evidence of sound or music’s role in social communication, and are providing tools for further studies on gene-culture evolution in music,’ the university said in a summary of the research released on 24 February 2011.
caption: Peter Wallack, via Wikimedia Commons
Source: World Science, http://www.world-science.net.