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Man making music: An interplay between culture and nature

Research project Music in some form exists in all human cultures, and a large group of people in our society invest much time and resources in music in various ways. In this programme, we address relationships between music engagement and (1) the development of expertise in music and other domains, (2) psychological and physical health, (3) wellbeing, (4) personality, (5) cognitive ability, and (6) timing accuracy. By employing a twin design in which we compare thousands of fraternal and identical twin pairs, we are able to partition genetic and environmental factors.

Music in some form exists in all human cultures, and a large group of people in our society invest much time and resources in music in various ways. In this programme, we address relationships between music engagement and (1) the development of expertise in music and other domains, (2) psychological and physical health, (3) wellbeing, (4) personality, (5) cognitive ability, and (6) timing accuracy. By employing a twin design in which we compare thousands of fraternal and identical twin pairs, we are able to partition genetic and environmental factors.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period

2012-01-01 2018-12-31

Funding

Finansår , 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

huvudman: Fredrik Ullén, finansiar: Riksbankens jubileumsfond, y2012: 3361, y2013: 2570, y2014: 2531, y2015: 2602, y2016: 2675, y2017: 2751, y2018: 2828,

Research subject

Clinical medicine, Molecular biology and genetics, Neurology and neurosciences, Psychology, Public health and community medicine

Project description

Music in some form exists in all human cultures, throughout recorded human history (1). Also, a large group of people in our society invest much time and resources in music, as listeners but also by actively singing or playing musical instruments themselves. This obviously gives enjoyment and satisfaction. Participating in musical activities has also been shown to have positive associations with other desirable outcomes, including cognitive ability (2) and health. The reasons for these associations, as well as the factors that influence how much individuals engage in music, remain poorly understood, however.
In this programme, we address a number of central questions concerning musical activity and its relations to other variables. The programme is ground-breaking in that all data is collected from a large twin cohort (n = 25000 participants), which gives unique possibilities to analyze causal relations using multivariate modelling of large volumes of twin data. We will use new techniques for psychological testing and collection of both self-report and experimental psychological data from large cohorts over the Internet, which have been developed by our research team. The reliability and validity of these techniques have been thoroughly tested in an earlier large-scale (n = 3071) online data collection (the Salty cohort, see below), which forms an important basis of the present programme. The programme can be subdivided into six subprojects, that will be run partly in parallell:
1. What makes people engage in musical activities?. The aim of the project is to analyse the various factors that influence individual differences in both active and passive (listening) musical participation. The importance of a broad range of relevant environmental variables (social, pedagogical etc) as well as personal variables (personality, motivational factors) for participation in musical activities and musical training is analyzed.
2. Musical training and expertise. Project 2 investigates the relations between musical training and specific musical abilities. Earlier literature provides ample evidence for strong relations between training and expertise. However, the importance of genetic factors for both training-dependent and training-independent effects on pitch and rhythm is virtually unknown and te focus of the present project.
3. Musical training and cognitive ability. In project 3, mechanisms underlying relations between cognitive ability and musical training are in focus. A positive causal effect of musical training on cognitive ability has been demonstrated earlier. Here, we investigate which components of musical education and training are responsible for such effects.
4. Timing accuracy and cognitive ability. We have earlier demonstrated associations between accuracy in simple rhythmic tasks and cognitive ability. Project 4 analyses the mechanisms underlying these associations further, e.g. by studying how they are affected by musical training and the importance of genetic and non-genetic components for the associations.
5. Musical creativity – the individual and the context. In Project 5, factors influencing creative achievement in music are analysed. The importance of number of cultural and other environmental factors as well as personal variables will be investigated.
6. Music and health. In Project 6, the associations between active and passive involvement in music, and various somatic and psychological health outcomes are investigated.

In summary, the programme takes as its starting point well-established associations between musical participation and training, and other socially important outcomes. The combined competences of the principal investigators, and the unique resources of the Swedish Twin Registry (the largest registry of its kind in the world) enables, for the first time, analyses of the mechanisms underlying such associations. This knowledge may give important practical information on how we best stimulate musical engagement in society, how musical training is best organized at home and in educational settings, and how we may optimize positive transfer effects of musical training on cognitive ability and health.