May 20, 2009

AVPR1A and Musical Aptitude

AVPR1A has been previously implicated in dance ability and pair bonding.

PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005534

Musical Aptitude Is Associated with AVPR1A-Haplotypes

Liisa T. Ukkola et al.


Artistic creativity forms the basis of music culture and music industry. Composing, improvising and arranging music are complex creative functions of the human brain, which biological value remains unknown. We hypothesized that practicing music is social communication that needs musical aptitude and even creativity in music. In order to understand the neurobiological basis of music in human evolution and communication we analyzed polymorphisms of the arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A), serotonin transporter (SLC6A4), catecol-O-methyltranferase (COMT), dopamin receptor D2 (DRD2) and tyrosine hydroxylase 1 (TPH1), genes associated with social bonding and cognitive functions in 19 Finnish families (n = 343 members) with professional musicians and/or active amateurs. All family members were tested for musical aptitude using the auditory structuring ability test (Karma Music test; KMT) and Carl Seashores tests for pitch (SP) and for time (ST). Data on creativity in music (composing, improvising and/or arranging music) was surveyed using a web-based questionnaire. Here we show for the first time that creative functions in music have a strong genetic component (h2 = .84; composing h2 = .40; arranging h2 = .46; improvising h2 = .62) in Finnish multigenerational families. We also show that high music test scores are significantly associated with creative functions in music (p<.0001). We discovered an overall haplotype association with AVPR1A gene (markers RS1 and RS3) and KMT (p = 0.0008; corrected p = 0.00002), SP (p = 0.0261; corrected p = 0.0072) and combined music test scores (COMB) (p = 0.0056; corrected p = 0.0006). AVPR1A haplotype AVR+RS1 further suggested a positive association with ST (p = 0.0038; corrected p = 0.00184) and COMB (p = 0.0083; corrected p = 0.0040) using haplotype-based association test HBAT. The results suggest that the neurobiology of music perception and production is likely to be related to the pathways affecting intrinsic attachment behavior. 

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