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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blame it on the Chromosomes: UCSF Researchers Link Perfect Pitch to Genetics

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Another genetic mutation...
  • Another genetic mutation...

Milli Vanilli finally has the excuse they've been waiting for: It's not that they can't sing -- they just don't have musical talent in their blood. In the latest edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics, U.C San Francisco researchers say they've discovered a region of the human genome that may harbor the genetic predisposition for what they deem "absolute" (perfect) pitch, which is the ability to instantaneously recognize tones and label them with their proper musical note without the aid of a tuning-fork.

The study on families of European, East Asian, Ashkenazi Jewish, and Indian ancestry.  So far, the only statistically significant conclusions of the study state that musical talent might well be inherited in families of European ancestry (whether white people can, in fact, dance still has yet to be determined).

To conduct the study, lead author Elizabeth Theusch provided 73 families (45 of European ancestry), each with at least two identified family members with perfect pitch (which she determined by a Web-based test) with a mail-back kit to obtain their DNA from samples of saliva. She also sent out something called a "mobile phlebotomy service" for blood samples. Hopefully that wasn't as painful as we imagine it to be.

Senior author Jane Gitschier, A UCSF professor of pediatrics and genetics, says that the study is important because, "perfect pitch is a window into the way in which multiple genes and environmental factors influence cognitive or behavioral traits."

In other words: It's just one more example of the many ways genes affect what we do. In still other words: It's just plain awesome.

Photo   |   Moimememoimeme



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Anna McCarthy

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