Psychologists have long known that music is good for us. It stirs positive emotions, improves blood flow to the brain and muscles, cranking up our mental abilities and physical endurance.
And a recent study, published on March 31, 2015, showed how music affects us at the genetic level. The effect of music performance on the transcriptome of professional musicians.
According to a recent announcement from the University of Helsinki, Finland, listening to classical music enhances the activity of genes responsible for brain functions, including dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning, and memory. A study by a Finnish team of researchers showed that listening to classical music down-regulated genes that mediate neurodegeneration, and up-regulated several genes known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a common evolutionary background of sound perception across species. (Listening to Classical Music Enhances Genes Linked to Brain Functions.)
In a nutshell, this is what Finnish scientists (Kanduri et al.) have done: They invited a group of people with different attitude to music and different musical abilities to take part in the study. In the group there were professional musicians as well as music lovers who played no musical instruments, people totally indifferent to music and “everyone in between.” Blood tests were performed on participants’ blood samples before and after “subjecting” the group to music.
People didn’t know what would be played to them. The researchers agreed on Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 in G Major K. 216, lasting around 20 minutes.
It was found that during the 20 minutes of Mozart, in some people certain genes were notably activated (the paper uses the term up-regulated.)
The up-regulated genes were found to affect dopaminergic neurotransmission, motor behavior, neuronal plasticity, and neurocognitive functions including learning and memory. Particularly, candidate genes such as SNCA, FOS and DUSP1 that are involved in song perception and production in songbirds, were identified, suggesting an evolutionary conservation in biological processes related to sound perception/production. (–From the published paper.)
SNCA, the gene involved in the production and transport of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that provides work memory and learning. When SNCA is “off”, the likelihood of Parkinson’s disease is greatly increased. At the same time, listening to music down-regulated genes that are associated with neurodegeneration, thus listening to music may have a neuroprotective effect.
Music performance is also known to induce emotion-related psychophysiological responses and generate a robust brainstem encoding of linguistic pitch patterns. However, the molecular mechanisms and biological pathways mediating the effects of music performance so far remain unknown.(–From the published paper.)
Unfortunately to those people who aren’t musically inclined, “The effect was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects,” the researchers remarked in a University of Helsinki announcement.
As a quick remedy, do your SNCA a favor and listen: