Jun 23, 2022 - News

VUMC researches tie between musical rhythm and our genes

Illustration of multiple musical notes merging into one.

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

If you've ever started drumming on the steering wheel while driving down Lower Broadway and hearing another cover of "Boot Scootin' Boogie" echo out of a honky tonk, you've got your DNA to thank.

State of play: The pioneering study, published last week, was led by Vanderbilt Genetics Institute research scientists in collaboration with the personal genomics company 23andMe.

  • VUMC billed the work as the "first large-scale genome-wide association study of a musical trait."

Between the lines: The study used data from more than 600,000 participants to analyze genetic information that varied in association with people's musical rhythm.

  • The findings underscore the connection between our biology and musical skill, although researchers pointed out that environmental factors also play a role in developing rhythm.

The intrigue: Researchers identified 69 genetic variants associated with beat synchronization, or their ability to move in time with the beat of music, according to a statement from VUMC.

  • The study found beat synchronization shared some of the genetic underpinnings behind biological rhythms such as walking and breathing.
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