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Beethoven's locks of hair hold clues to his musical genius

Beethoven's locks of hair hold clues to his musical genius


  • A team of researchers tested Beethoven's DNA for his ability to beat-sync, a trait associated with musicality.
  • Although Beethoven's polygenic scores are less noticeable than the average person's, researchers say his genius may have been in his creativity rather than his musicality.
  • The research team believes further DNA studies could help draw connections between DNA and individual traits.

there is little doubt about it ludwig van beethoven He was a musical genius. But maybe his genius comes from his creativity rather than his innate musical taste. At least, that's what a new test of Beethoven's DNA suggests.

A team of researchers from Germany's Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics and Dutch psycholinguistics analyzed Beethoven's works. DNA Sequences extracted from hair from a 2023 study. They aimed to obtain a polygenic score, an indicator of an individual's genetic predisposition to a certain trait or behavior.

In this case, based on the research results, published in current biology, the team was focused on its beat sync ability. This characteristic is closely related to musicality and can influence musicality. Man Ability to recognize beats and keep track of time.

“Before performing the analysis, we pre-registered the study and emphasized that we had no prior expectations as to what kind of score Beethoven would mark,” said first author Laura Wessel. Dyke said in his paper. statement. “Instead, our aim was to use this as an example of a production challenge. genetically This is a prophecy from a person who lived over 200 years ago. ”

Not having any preconceived notions ended up moving us in the right direction. Beethoven's musicality score produced a “remarkable polygenic score for general musicality compared to population samples” taken from Sweden and Vanderbilt University. Of course, the researchers note that genetic indicators of beat-syncing ability may not directly tap into Beethoven's musicality. Creativity This led to his ability to compose music.

“It is clearly wrong to conclude from Beethoven's low polygenic score that his musical ability was not extraordinary,” co-author Simon Fisher said in a statement. “We believe that the large discrepancy between this DNA-based prediction and Beethoven's musical genius provides a valuable teaching moment. For example, whether your child is musically talented or not. , or that you can reliably determine whether you are particularly talented in any other field using a genetic test, this indicates that you should be skeptical. action

At the same time, the research team recognizes that DNA can still contribute to musical skills, noting that musicality is inherited 42 percent of the time. Although the authors of this study claim that using DNA can help them understand the relationship between genetics and traits, it is true that they rely on DNA. data Predicting behavior remains inaccurate.

“We use this as an example to illustrate the broader challenges of individual-level genetic prediction,” the authors say in their study.

The hair used in this test is the same hair that was recently given to us. Insights into Beethoven's health. Beethoven died in 1827, most likely due to liver disease. A 2023 study led by the University of Cambridge and published in current biologyA team of researchers sequenced Beethoven's genome from a strand of hair to understand his health problems.These issues also included progressive hearing losschronic gastrointestinal disease, severe liver disease.

Although this genetic study did not provide a definitive explanation for hearing loss or gastrointestinal problems, it did reveal significant genetic risk factors. liver disease. The research team also found evidence that the composer had a hepatitis B infection in his body in the months before his death.

Researchers believe that Beethoven's hepatitis B infection may have been the driving force behind the composer's severe liver disease, which may have subsequently been exacerbated by his alcohol intake and genetic risk behaviors. There is. However, one thing is certain about both the timing and extent of infection: alcohol Consumption remains elusive.

It's also elusive where that musical genius came from.

Tim Newcomb's photo

Tim Newcombe is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. He has covered stadiums, sneakers, gear, infrastructure, and more for a variety of publications, including Popular Mechanics. His favorite interviews include conversations with Switzerland's Roger Federer, Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant, and Portland's Tinker Hatfield.




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