Music Affects Gene Expression

From a study by Meng B, Zhu S, Li S, Zeng Q, and Mei B :

Music has been proved beneficial to improve learning and memory in many species including human in previous research work. Although some genes have been identified to contribute to the mechanisms, it is believed that the effect of music is manifold, behind which must concern a complex regulation network. To further understand the mechanisms, we exposed the mice to classical music for one month. The subsequent behavioral experiments showed improvement of spatial learning capability and elevation of fear-motivated memory [emphasis added] in the mice with music-exposure as compared to the naïve mice. Meanwhile, we applied the microarray to compare the gene expression profiles of the hippocampus and cortex between the mice with music-exposure and the naïve mice. The results showed approximately 454 genes in cortex (200 genes up-regulated and 254 genes down-regulated) and 437 genes in hippocampus (256 genes up-regulated and 181 genes down-regulated) were significantly affected in music-exposing mice, which mainly involved in ion channel activity and/or synaptic transmission, cytoskeleton, development, transcription, hormone activity [emphasis added]. Our work may provide some hints for better understanding the effects of music on learning and memory.

There are several interesting parts of this study: first, that mice exposed to classical music for a month learned better and remembered better. The second, more interesting, is that hearing classical music affected almost 900 genes and how they were expressed or suppressed. The third, even more interesting part, is what the genes that were affected did: synaptic transmission (information flow in the brain); cytoskeleton (the physical structure of cells); development; transcription (how cells are copied and therefore reproduced); and hormone activity.

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Genetic Information Storage
Victor Habbick

For such a modest statement, there are some implications here that are truly staggering, for the research suggests that we may one day be able to enhance desirable genes and suppress undesirable genes through sound. And conversely, that certain sounds may induce undesirable gene expression as well. In other words, if you have the gene which may predispose you to a particular disease, whether that gene gets expressed may be controlled by the sounds and music you hear. So think about that before you load up your mp3 player . . . .

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