Genome-wide association study of musical beat synchronization demonstrates high polygenicity

Niarchou, Maria; Gustavson, Daniel E.; Sathirapongsasuti, J. Fah; Anglada-Tort, Manuel; Eising, Else; Bell, Eamonn; McArthur, Evonne; Straub, Peter; Aslibekyan, Stella; Auton, Adam; Bell, Robert K.; Bryc, Katarzyna; Clark, Sarah K.; Elson, Sarah L.; Fletez-Brant, Kipper; Fontanillas, Pierre; Furlotte, Nicholas A.; Gandhi, Pooja M.; Heilbron, Karl; Hicks, Barry; Huber, Karen E.; Jewett, Ethan M.; Jiang, Yunxuan; Kleinman, Aaron; Lin, Keng-Han; Litterman, Nadia K.; McCreight, Jey C.; McIntyre, Matthew H.; McManus, Kimberly F.; Mountain, Joanna L.; Mozaffari, Sahar V.; Nandakumar, Priyanka; Noblin, Elizabeth S.; Northover, Carrie A. M.; O’Connell, Jared; Pitts, Steven J.; Poznik, G. David; Shastri, Anjali J.; Shelton, Janie F.; Shringarpure, Suyash; Tian, Chao; Tung, Joyce Y.; Tunney, Robert J.; Vacic, Vladimir; Wang, Xin; McAuley, J. Devin; Capra, John A.; Ullén, Fredrik; Creanza, Nicole; Mosing, Miriam A.; Hinds, David A.; Davis, Lea K.; Jacoby, Nori and Gordon, Reyna L.. 2022. Genome-wide association study of musical beat synchronization demonstrates high polygenicity. Nature Human Behaviour, 6(9), pp. 1292-1309. ISSN 2397-3374 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Moving in synchrony to the beat is a fundamental component of musicality. Here we conducted a genome-wide associa- tion study to identify common genetic variants associated with beat synchronization in 606,825 individuals. Beat syn- chronization 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 synchroniza- tion 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.

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The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund through the Office of the NIH Director and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders under awards DP2HD098859, K18DC017383 and R01DC016977 to R.L.G. J.A.C. was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R35GM127087). E.E. was supported by the Max Planck Society. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. The dataset used for one of the analyses described was obtained from Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s BioVU, which is supported by numerous sources: institutional funding, private agencies and federal grants. These include the NIH-funded Shared Instrumentation Grant S10RR025141 and CTSA grants UL1TR002243, UL1TR000445 and UL1RR024975. Genomic data are also supported by investigator-led projects that include U01HG004798, R01NS032830, RC2GM092618, P50GM115305, U01HG006378, U19HL065962 and R01HD074711, and additional funding sources listed at The GTEx Project was supported by the Common Fund of the NIH and by NCI, NHGRI, NHLBI, NIDA, NIMH and NINDS. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Data Access Statement:

The full GWAS summary statistics for the 23andMe dataset will be made available through 23andMe to qualified researchers under an agreement that protects the privacy of the 23andMe participants. Please visit for more information and to apply to access the data. The top 10,000 SNPs of the GWAS and the data from the phenotype validation studies are available for reasonable research purposes from Source data are provided with this paper.

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21 April 2022Accepted
16 June 2022Published Online
September 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Jun 2024 08:39

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10 Jun 2024 08:39

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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