New research finds out the biological connect of \'listening to music\'

Music has no language – listening to music is rather a biological trait. Findings of a new study by the University of Helsinki explore ‘listening to music’ to a deeper level.

Regardless of the culture, creed, nationality, age, gender or any other barriers music is listened to by one and all and is also loved by all. Recently published in the journal ‘Journal of Human Genetics’, findings of this new research reveal the biological connect of ‘listening to music’. Researchers from the University of Helsinki and Sibelius-Academy found similarities between human and animal song. The understanding and comprehension of music is done in the same way by all living beings irrespective of the species. Interestingly, the behavioral aspects of listening to music are found to be closely associated with ‘attachment’. Songs for infants, popularly known as ‘lullabies’, were found to increase the child’s attachment level to his/her parents. ‘Teamwork’, another behavioral feature of a group, can be effectively reflected via singing or playing music together; this was said to improve the group’s coherence and the quality of sticking together.
As a part of the study, the researchers evaluated a study population that included 31 Finnish families i.e., a total of 437 participants. The study group had participants between 8 to 93 years of age and included people having various levels of experience with music viz., professional musicians, amateurs and those with absolutely no education in music. The study group was divided into two based on their listening habits; which was differentiated as active and passive listening respectively. The active listeners group included those who are attentive listeners of music, and those who regularly attend musical shows and concerts. The passive listeners group included participants who listened to music as a pass time and listening to music was just a background activity for them alongside other work. The two groups were then separately assessed for musical aptitude via questionnaires and three music tests. Each participant’s blood sample was also collected for the purpose of DNA analysis.

Results pointed that the participants from the active listening group devoted about 4.6 hours per week for listening to music; while the passive listening group spent about 7.3 hours listening to music every week. Researchers observed that the level of professional education in music, high scores in the music tests and the participants’ creativity in music added to the active listening of music. The present study is a pioneer among other studies that have explored the trait of listening to music at an elementary level. Researchers found a link between the gene variants of arginine vasopressin receptor 1A and listening to music. This gene is related to the behavioral aspects like social communication and emotional attachment among human beings and other species. In addition this gene is also responsible for various sounds made by birds and influences breeding of lizards and fishes.

A recent study by Irma Järvelä, Liisa Ukkola-Vuoti, Päivi Onkamo and Jaana Oikkonen, Pirre Raijas and Kai Karma, University of Helsinki and Sibelius-Academy, Helsinki.
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Disclaimer: This article is written by a non-medical professional. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011
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