Genes and creativity
That’s right; your genes are partially responsible for how creative you are.
Explaining creativity can be difficult, and understanding why you are (or aren’t) naturally creative is even harder. Some of your creativity can be as a result of the environment which you grew up in, some of your creativity could be inherited through genes. In fact, a recent study has proven that on average, 30% of a musician’s creativity (regarding composing and playing music) can be put down to their genes. With this in mind, we can now say with certainty that creative genes are legitimate.
Now, while a lot of people may see this is only good news for those whose parents are natural musicians, it’s good news for the other 70% of us as well. This means that even if you don’t have the creative gene, 70% of your musical talent is based on your efforts.
Something else which this research discovered was that when isolated, specific genes used specific biological pathways that impacted people’s musical abilities. While some people can quickly learn a new piece of music, others will take hours to string a few notes together.
However, there are some limits to this study. For example, there were only 300 participants from Finland involved, and the individuals themselves reported how creative they were – let’s face it, most people are going to exaggerate their talents. Of course, for more reliable results, this study could be re-conducted on a much broader group of people.
Also found during this research, the chromosome regions which are linked with music composition have previously been discovered and connected with creativity in the past – creating great potential for the possibility of future studies regarding creativity, musical abilities, and hopefully more clarity on how these genes are associated with these things.
This study has caused some debate among psychologists and researchers as the same genes which they have linked with creativity have also been linked with mental health conditions in the past – begging the question, is mental health and creativity related?
According to the team of researchers who conducted this study, “We have successfully determined the specific regions and genes which are linked with psychological health.”
“Although these psychological disorders are conveyed as negative traits, this recent discovery strongly suggests that they can lead to individuals being more creative.”, they continued.
Taking a step back for a moment – the study itself was a result of a questionnaire which revealed how recent generations who had musically creative relatives were much more educated when it comes to composing and playing music, than those who didn’t have these relatives.
To gain a better understanding of this difference, the research team carefully analysed the individual genomes of each participant, roughly half of which claimed they were capable of music composition. From this analysis, the team were aiming to find a pattern between musical and creative traits, as well as genes.
As a result, they discovered that genes from Chromosome 4 had a connection to musical composition, and these genes were found in regions which contained other genes which had previously been noted to impact musical creativity – such as the SNCA gene, a gene that becomes active shortly after an individual starts playing or listening to music.
While an exciting discovery, this doesn’t say with certainty if these genes positively impact the way that our brains understand music. This prompted the team of researchers to pursue their efforts, and as a result, they successfully found that the LTD pathway (Long-Term Depression, a molecular pathway in the brain) is linked with musical composition. This pathway has no involvement when it comes to mental illness or depression, but instead affects both learning capabilities and memory.
The LDT pathway takes place in the brain’s cerebellum – a region which will become active during musical activities including improvising choreography, or play notes from memory. According to the research team, “We have deducted that from these results, these pathways which are linked to learning and memory have a direct impact on musical creativity”.