Researchers have found that classical music has a positive effect on brain by enhancing activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and protects the brain by down-regulating genes mediating neurodegeneration.
In their study, University of Helsinki researchers, investigated how listening to classical music affected the gene expression profiles of both musically experienced and inexperienced participants. All the participants listened to WA Mozart’s violin concert Nr 3, G-major, K.216 that lasts 20 minutes.
Listening to music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic function, learning and memory, the researchers found. Several of the up-regulated genes were known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a common evolutionary background of sound perception across species, researchers said.
Listening to music represents a complex cognitive function of the human brain, which is known to induce several neuronal and physiological changes.
One of the most up-regulated genes, synuclein-alpha (SNCA) is a known risk gene for Parkinson’s disease that is located in the strongest linkage region of musical aptitude. SNCA is also known to contribute to song learning in songbirds.
“The up-regulation of several genes that are known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds suggest a shared evolutionary background of sound perception between vocalising birds and humans,” said Dr Irma Jarvela, the leader of the study, from the University of Helsinki.
In contrast, listening to music down-regulated genes that are associated with neurodegeneration, referring to a neuroprotective role of music.
“The effect was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects,” researchers said.
The findings give new information about the molecular genetic background of music perception and evolution, and may give further insights about the molecular mechanisms underlying music therapy.