Scoring Genius

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Is talent innate? According to an analysis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s DNA, not so much.

Scientists reviewed the famed German composer’s genetics and found a low predisposition for beat synchronization, Science Alert reported.

Beat synchronization is the ability to recognize and keep up with rhythm, which previous research has linked to the ability to produce music. It can be a manifestation of genetic variants: It is estimated that around 42 percent of our musicality comes from our parents’ genes.

In their study, the researchers coded Beethoven’s DNA taken from preserved strands of his hair. The analysis rendered a polygenic score – an indication of the effect of given genetic variants on one’s behavior and traits.

Beethoven’s polygenic score was far from being as exceptional as his musical ones.

Though the scientists held no expectations about the outcome, the results of their analysis didn’t really come as a surprise. They wanted to carry out this study “as an example of the challenges of making genetic predictions for an individual that lived over 200 years ago,” they told the outlet.

While admitting that polygenic scores are useful to map out trends among populations in given times and places, the researchers argued that genes alone could not determine one’s genius.

However, genetic analysis did help scientists previously establish that the liver failure that led Beethoven to his death may have been inevitable, no matter how much alcohol he drank.

As for what produces musical talent, the answer lies somewhere between nature and nurture.

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