“Perfect pitch means the same thing that an expert is looking for,” said Tom Smith, a Boston College neurophysicist. “It means that you have this ability to make perfect pitches in a very small space of time.”
Researchers have known there’s a lot of variation within each individual, but have not yet pinpointed which genes are critical. Now, the new research could help answer that question.
In the new study, which was published in the journal Developmental Biology, Smith’s research team and colleagues looked at the physical traits of 890 twins born in Japan between 1978 and 1992. In each of the twins, researchers were given questionnaires about their temperament and IQ. Twins who shared the same genes were then paired off to go play a competitive musical game – the so-called chess game. The participants got a sound bite from their parents about the game – for example, if they played “Rock and Roll Music.”
After each game session, the researchers asked the participants about their musical ability.
In all subjects, those who showed the highest musical ability scored significantly high on a test of musical pitch. For example, those with the genetic version of the GYY4 gene, which predicts their ability to play “Finnish pop,” were over twice as likely to score high on the test. The only condition that correlated with the gene’s association with musical pitch was an absence of intelligence or a mild IQ deficit.
There are two other genes associated with musical pitch. One, GYY1, has been shown to increase people’s ability to play “Finnish pop.” The other, GYY4, is known as the “second genius gene,” and has been strongly tied to intelligence.
Smith said the new study helps to pinpoint the genetic changes that could lead to better musical pitch abilities.
“It’s a really good case study in genetic effects,” he said.
Although the genetic causes of musical pitch are not completely understood, the results point to one potential factor: the nervous system’s connections to other brain regions that are involved in other musical functions, Smith said.
If certain brain-wave patterns are linked to musical ability, and the new research shows that these brain wave patterns affect musical pitch, then this link could be the missing link that leads to musical music.
“It’s very exciting,” Smith said. “It’s a perfect example of what’s known as the link between brain physiology and brain function.”
Original article on Live
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