Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Does musicality have a biological basis?

Participants of the Adacemy Colloquium on Musicality and Genomics, held on 20 and 21 June 2019 at the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam | © www.miletteraats.nl
While there is still quite some debate on the cultural and biological origins of music, there is a growing consensus that musicality has deep biological foundations, based on an accumulation of evidence for the involvement of genetic variation. Recent advances in molecular technologies provide an effective way of investigating these biological foundations. In particular, genome-wide genotyping offers a promising route to capture the polymorphic content of large phenotyped population samples. These approaches provide complementary evidence to recent knowledge gained from examining clustering in families and co-occurrence in twins of extreme levels of musical ability. However, the success of molecular genetic studies of musical ability is critically dependent on robust, objective, and reliable measures of musicality phenotypes. 

The colloquium, that was held on 20 and 21 June 2019 in Amsterdam, aimed to 1) evaluate existing measures of musicality, such as the GOLD-MSI, PROMS, AMMA, MET, Karma, Seashore, etc., and 2) discuss the opportunities to administer these standardized aptitude tests online on a large scale, especially using web-based and engaging gaming techniques. The latter will provide an important step towards 3) the design of high-powered genome-wide screens to be able to effectively analyse musical phenotypes (Gingras,Honing, Peretz, Trainor, & Fisher, 2018). Lastly, 4) a key goal was to initiate an international and truly interdisciplinary consortium aimed at identifying the genetic bases of musicality. More information can be found at www.mcg.uva.nl/musicality2019/.