For Music Pros, Performing Revs Up Learning and Memory Genes

A new Finnish study finds that music performance by professional musicians stimulates the genes responsible for essential brain functions.

Music performance is known to induce structural and functional changes to the human brain and enhance cognition. But the molecular mechanisms underlying music performance have been so far unexplored.

In the new study, researchers investigated the effect of music performance (in a two hr concert) on the gene expression profiles of professional musicians from Tapiola Sinfonietta (a professional orchestra) and Sibelius-Academy (a music university).

Investigators discovered playing music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopaminergic neurotransmission, motor function, learning, and memory. Moreover, some of the genes stimulated, like SNCA, FOS, and DUSP1, are known to contribute to song perception and production in songbirds.

The activation of these genes suggests a potential evolutionary preservation in molecular mechanisms related to sound production across species.

In addition, several of the up-regulated genes are known to be involved in biological pathways. For example, the genes influence calcium ion homeostasis and iron ion homeostasis. These mechanisms are essential for neuronal function, survival, and neuroprotection.

“The findings provide a valuable background for molecular studies of music perception and evolution, and music therapy,” said study leader Dr. Irma Järvelä from the University of Helsinki.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: University of Helinski/EurekAlert!