Monday, August 11, 2014

DNA and great musicians

Miriam A. Mosing of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute and colleagues looked at the association between music practice and specific musical abilities like rhythm, melody and pitch discrimination in over 10,000 identical Swedish twins. They reported that the propensity to practice was between 40% and 70% heritable and that there was no difference in musical ability between twins with varying amounts of cumulative practice. "Music practice,” they conclude, “may not causally influence musical ability and … genetic variation among individuals affects both ability and inclination to practice." Though the study focused on musicality, the findings can in theory be extrapolated to other skilled and creative activities. Not to get overly reductionist, but it could be assumed that nearly all of our talents and cognitive characteristics are least partly influenced by our respective strings of nucleotides. Complex pursuits, whether creative or technical, involve numerous communicating regions from all over the brain (in contrast to the overly simplistic and now debunked "left brain/right brain" assignments for analytical vs creative types). These structures and the brain’s general blueprint are shaped by our genetic code throughout development; also genes encode for the proteins that run our bodies and brains while plenty of data link specific genetic profiles with varying cognitive abilities.

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