Genetic region linked with rare ability to recognize, name musical notes identified

July 3rd, 2009 - 12:07 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 3 (ANI): Scientists at the University of California-San Francisco (UNSF) say that they have identified a particular region of genes on human chromosome eight that is linked to perfect pitch, the rare ability to recognize and name musical notes without any reference pitch for comparison, at least in people of European ancestry.

Reporting their work in American Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers say that their next step will be to identify a specific gene.

The finding, part of a larger examination of families of various ancestries - Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Indians and East Asians - is the first significant genetic evidence of a role of genes in perfect pitch.

The researchers say that it is likely that multiple genes are involved in all cases of perfect pitch, and that different genes could be associated with different ethnic backgrounds.

But despite that, they say, the finding is an important advance in their effort to move in on the relative roles of early musical training and genetic inheritance on perfect pitch.

Professor Jane Gitschier, the senior author of the study who is a singer herself, says that it is an advance in the team’s effort to explore the relative contributions of environmental factors and genes on learning and other behaviours.

“Perfect pitch is a window into the way in which multiple genes and environmental factors influence cognitive or behavioural traits,” she says.

The team has learnt over the last decade that both factors contribute to perfect pitch.

“What’s exciting now is that we now have made the first foray into teasing out the genes that may be involved,” she says.

Besides continuing to identify and collect data on families with multiple cases of perfect pitch, the researchers plan to analyse candidate genes for variations that might be associated with perfect pitch in participants of European ancestry.

For this purpose, the team plans to recruit and study individuals of European ancestry without perfect pitch, but with equivalent early musical training.

The ongoing effort is supported in part by a grant by the NAMM Foundation, which was established by the international music products industry association with the aim of promoting “active participation in music making across the lifespan,” in part by supporting scientific research. (ANI)

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