Using a polygenic score in a family design to understand genetic influences on musicality

23andMe Research Team

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To further our understanding of the genetics of musicality, we explored associations between a polygenic score for self-reported beat synchronization ability (PGS rhythm) and objectively measured rhythm discrimination, as well as other validated music skills and music-related traits. Using family data, we were able to further explore potential pathways of direct genetic, indirect genetic (through passive gene–environment correlation) and confounding effects (such as population structure and assortative mating). In 5648 Swedish twins, we found PGS rhythm to predict not only rhythm discrimination, but also melody and pitch discrimination (betas between 0.11 and 0.16, p < 0.001), as well as other music-related outcomes (p < 0.05). In contrast, PGS rhythm was not associated with control phenotypes not directly related to music. Associations did not deteriorate within families (N = 243), implying that indirect genetic or confounding effects did not inflate PGS rhythm effects. A correlation (r = 0.05, p < 0.001) between musical enrichment of the family childhood environment and individuals' PGS rhythm, suggests gene–environment correlation. We conclude that the PGS rhythm captures individuals' general genetic musical propensity, affecting musical behavior more likely direct than through indirect or confounding effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14658
Pages (from-to)14658
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance/genetics
  • Music
  • Pitch Discrimination
  • Sweden
  • Twins/genetics

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