As we shape our evolution more and more, we may seek out people with genetic traits we desire not only for breeding, but in an immediate sense, so we may plug their traits into our own bodies. How many years away are we from abilities like this? 50? 100? 500? 2000? If good genes lead to perfect pitch, I hope we get to a point where we could take a perfect pitch pill.
Practice, practice, practice might get you to Carnegie Hall, but for aspiring musicians, there’s new evidence that genes may influence one’s ability to get there, as well.
Perfect pitch, also known as absolute pitch, is the rare ability to recognize and name musical notes without any reference pitch for comparison, detecting, for instance, A before middle C. The rarity of the aptitude contrasts with the common ability to immediately recognize and name colors, distinguishing pink from red or azure from blue.
In the July 2 online posting of “American Journal of Human Genetics,” UCSF scientists report that they identified a particular region of genes on human chromosome eight that is linked to perfect pitch, at least in people of European ancestry. The next step, they say, is to identify a specific gene.
The finding, part of a larger examination of families of various ancestries – Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Indians and East Asians – is the first significant genetic evidence of a role of genes in perfect pitch. It is likely, the researchers say, that multiple genes are involved in all cases of perfect pitch and that different genes could be associated with different ethnic backgrounds.
Regardless, the finding is an important advance, they say, in their effort to move in on the relative roles of early musical training and genetic inheritance on perfect pitch. More broadly, says senior author Jane Gitschier, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine, pediatrics and genetics, and herself a singer, it is an advance in the team’s effort to explore the relative contributions of environmental factors and genes on learning and other behaviors.
“Perfect pitch is a window into the way in which multiple genes and environmental factors influence cognitive or behavioral traits,” she says. The team has learned over the last decade that both factors contribute to perfect pitch. “What’s exciting now,” she says, “is that we now have made the first foray into teasing out the genes that may be involved.”
I’ve posted about perfect pitch previously: correcting wrong learned notes, paul mccartney making girls scream, absolute pitch test.