July 6, 2009

Perfect pitch linked to chromosome 8

U.S. scientists say they have identified a particular region of genes on human chromosome eight linked to perfect pitch in those of European ancestry.

Senior author Jane Gitschier -- a University of California, San Francisco, professor of medicine, pediatrics and genetics -- said the finding is an advance in the team's effort to explore the relative contributions of environmental factors and genes on learning and other behaviors.

The team drew on data acquired from the lab's Web-based survey, established in 2003, which gathers information about participants' musical training history and tests their pitch-naming abilities.

Lead author Elizabeth Theusch, a graduate student in the Gitschier laboratory, identified a collection of families in which at least two people -- mostly siblings -- had perfect pitch as determined by the Web-based test. Seventy-three of the families chose to participate in her investigation by mailing back a kit to obtain DNA from saliva, or a mobile phlebotomy service was dispatched to collect blood.

The researchers looked for bits of DNA shared by family members with perfect pitch and found evidence that the genetic variations contributing to the acquisition of perfect pitch might be different in different populations.

The study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, found the chromosomal region that stood out as statistically significant was identified in families of European ancestry.