Niarchou, M., Gustavson, D. E., Sathirapongsasuti, J. F., Anglada-Tort, M., Eising, E., Bell, E., McArthur, E., Straub, P., The 23andMe Research Team, McAuley, J. D., Capra, J. A., Ullén, F., Creanza, N., Mosing, M. A., Hinds, D., Davis, L. K., Jacoby, N., & Gordon, R. L.
(2022). Genome-wide association study of musical beat synchronization demonstrates high polygenicity. Nature Human Behaviour, 6(9), 1292-1309. doi:10.1038/s41562-022-01359-x.
Moving in synchrony to the beat is a fundamental component of musicality. Here we conducted a genome-wide association study to identify common genetic variants associated with beat synchronization in 606,825 individuals. Beat synchronization exhibited a highly polygenic architecture, with 69 loci reaching genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) and single-nucleotide-polymorphism-based heritability (on the liability scale) of 13%–16%. Heritability was enriched for genes expressed in brain tissues and for fetal and adult brain-specific gene regulatory elements, underscoring the role of central-nervous-system-expressed genes linked to the genetic basis of the trait. We performed validations of the self-report phenotype (through separate experiments) and of the genome-wide association study (polygenic scores for beat synchronization were associated with patients algorithmically classified as musicians in medical records of a separate biobank). Genetic correlations with breathing function, motor function, processing speed and chronotype suggest shared genetic architecture with beat synchronization and provide avenues for new phenotypic and genetic explorations.