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New Scientist: Imperfect harmony

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Amos 14 Mar 01 - 11:53 PM
katlaughing 14 Mar 01 - 11:57 PM
wysiwyg 14 Mar 01 - 11:59 PM
The Crazy Bird 15 Mar 01 - 09:30 AM
Wolfgang 15 Mar 01 - 12:30 PM
Mr Red 15 Mar 01 - 12:37 PM
John J 15 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM
raredance 15 Mar 01 - 07:03 PM
En 16 Mar 01 - 02:04 AM
Wolfgang 16 Mar 01 - 03:17 AM
Sarah the flute 16 Mar 01 - 03:34 AM
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Subject: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: Amos
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 11:53 PM

The following article from this weeks New Scientist is of interest to some:

Imperfect harmony

Don't try to teach the world to sing. However hard they try, some people will find it hard to hold a tune

IF YOUR singing sends people scurrying to find earplugs, blame your ancestors. According to a study of musically gifted and tone-deaf twins, your ability to judge pitch is largely determined by your genes.

Tim Spector of St Thomas' Hospital in London and his colleagues hoped to find out whether early musical experiences or genes determine people's ability to judge whether a melody is being played in tune. "I guessed there would be a small genetic component, but that environment--say having a family environment where music was always played--would be a greater factor," says Spector.

To test this, his team recruited 136 pairs of identical twins and 148 pairs of non-identical twins. Identical twins have exactly the same genes, while fraternal twins share about half of their genes, like ordinary siblings.

The volunteers listened to 26 well-known tunes, including Silent Night and The Star-Spangled Banner. Nine were played correctly, but the rest included notes that were one or two semitones off-key. The twins had to judge whether each melody was in tune or not.

The gulf between the high and low scorers was enormous. Around a quarter of the listeners scored full marks. But 1 in 20 was deemed "tune deaf", spotting incorrect melodies with an accuracy no better than they would be expected to achieve by chance. "You can't believe that some people don't know Yankee Doodle Dandy's being played so badly," says Spector.

But the most surprising finding was that identical twins were much more likely than non-identical twins to have very similar scores, suggesting that your genetic make-up largely determines your ability to judge pitch. Spector's team concludes that this skill is roughly 80 per cent hereditary.

He adds that this strongly suggests that music lessons can't turn a tone-deaf child into a musical maestro. "Once you realise that there's a huge variety in what other people are hearing and that the cause is predominantly genetic, you can see why it's going to be virtually impossible to change them," says Spector.

"I think the twin study is very good, and strongly suggests a genetic component to pitch cognition," says Peter Gregerson, a geneticist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. He suspects that many genes act together to influence our judgement of pitch: "Complex cognitive abilities like this are likely to have a very complex genetic basis."

More at: Science (vol 291, p 1969) To find out if you are "tune deaf", take the distorted tunes test at www.newscientist.com/dn.jsp?i=497


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: katlaughing
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 11:57 PM

Interesting, especially in that my sisters are identical twins and have very good "ears" and my almost 3 year old grandsons are identical twins and are already picking tunes out on the piano. The gene is definitely apparent throughout my parents' families, which also had twins on both sides and throughout my son-in-law's fmaily, so I think the babies got a super whammy of it!


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: wysiwyg
Date: 14 Mar 01 - 11:59 PM

I'm not sure. I think actually it's genretic.

Musta had a misprint. Or a ypto. Ehoops!

*G*

~S~


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: The Crazy Bird
Date: 15 Mar 01 - 09:30 AM

Dear Hearts,

I couldn't carry a tune until I got me a guitar.

When I got me a guitar, then I found I couldn't tune it.

Some how the guitar got tuned and I learned how to harmonize with it and got to where I could sing in key even when they hid my guitar.

Then I made the discovery that there was meaning in those demi false notes and now I sing off, on, in and around the key. Keeps the mice away.

CrzyBrd


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: Wolfgang
Date: 15 Mar 01 - 12:30 PM

Recent thread about the same piece of research. However, the information on how the research was done is much better in this thread, thanks to Amos.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: Mr Red
Date: 15 Mar 01 - 12:37 PM

Saw it. Read it 2nite.

What about the cover? Sex, Sex, Sex. I thought it was a boyz komik i wuz seeing. Actually the article is for girlz but what I caught of it (while getting my oats ..... cooked) seemed to be worth a look, in a voyeristic sort of way.


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: John J
Date: 15 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM

I buy New Scientist now and then....I'll pick a copy up on my way home. John


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: raredance
Date: 15 Mar 01 - 07:03 PM

I wonder if gender matters. Identical twins by definition are the same sex. Non-identical twins can be either. You would expect about half the non-idents to be same sex and half to be opposite. The question is do same sex non-ident twins have scores that are more similar than oposite sex non-idents? Maybe the answer is in the article.

rich r


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: En
Date: 16 Mar 01 - 02:04 AM

Non-identical twins are as genetically dissimilar as siblings not born at the same time. Usually twin studies involve twins who were raised apart in order to eliminate the 'nurture' bias.


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: Wolfgang
Date: 16 Mar 01 - 03:17 AM

rich r,
this problem is so well known that I doubt that the error of not using a same sex dizygotic twin control has been made in any study within the last couple of decades. If this error would have been made in the above article the article wouldn't have made it into a prestigious journal.

En,
that's a real problem (that people who share more of their genes often also live in a more similar environment) and, unfortunately it is not even completely solved by testing twins reared apart for mainly two reasons:
(1) Even twins reared apart have shared the same environment for a period of time (at least for nine months, mostly longer, for the placement into foster care happens rarely directly after birth).
(2) There is nearly universally found what is termed 'selective placement'. Foster children are for very good reasons not placed into families at random. And it is known that there is a bias in the persons responsible for foster placement to choose a foster family that is in some respects more similar to the biological mother than can be expected by chance alone ('Look, little Dana baby comes from a very good religious family, let's her rather give to the Smith's than to the Peterson's').

The most extreme case: The notorious Burt had among his 'monzygotic twins reared apart' twins that were, after the death of the biological parents, placed into the homes of close relatives living in the same village a few yards apart.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: New Scientist: Imperfect harmony
From: Sarah the flute
Date: 16 Mar 01 - 03:34 AM

I'm in the middle of a big row with New Scientist comic. They aren't going to produce the CD ROM any more only put it online which is upsetting the UK education system bigtime - how can you set up a class full of terminals and expect the connection to remain intact without crashing for 35mins Unlikely at our place. BRing back the CD ROM


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