We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham Research Online
You are in:

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

Niarchou, Maria and Gustavson, Daniel E. and Sathirapongsasuti, J. Fah and Anglada-Tort, Manuel and Eising, Else and Bell, Eamonn and McArthur, Evonne and Straub, Peter and Aslibekyan, Stella and Auton, Adam and Bell, Robert K. and Bryc, Katarzyna and Clark, Sarah K. and Elson, Sarah L. and Fletez-Brant, Kipper and Fontanillas, Pierre and Furlotte, Nicholas A. and Gandhi, Pooja M. and Heilbron, Karl and Hicks, Barry and Huber, Karen E. and Jewett, Ethan M. and Jiang, Yunxuan and Kleinman, Aaron and Lin, Keng-Han and Litterman, Nadia K. and McCreight, Jey C. and McIntyre, Matthew H. and McManus, Kimberly F. and Mountain, Joanna L. and Mozaffari, Sahar V. and Nandakumar, Priyanka and Noblin, Elizabeth S. and Northover, Carrie A. M. and O’Connell, Jared and Pitts, Steven J. and Poznik, G. David and Shastri, Anjali J. and Shelton, Janie F. and Shringarpure, Suyash and Tian, Chao and Tung, Joyce Y. and Tunney, Robert J. and Vacic, Vladimir and Wang, Xin and McAuley, J. Devin and Capra, John A. and Ullén, Fredrik and Creanza, Nicole and Mosing, Miriam A. and Hinds, David A. and Davis, Lea K. and 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.


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.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(VoR) Version of Record
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
Download PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date accepted:21 April 2022
Date deposited:20 July 2022
Date of first online publication:16 June 2022
Date first made open access:20 July 2022

Save or Share this output

Look up in GoogleScholar