Music performance is known to induce structural and functional changes to the human brain and enhance cognition. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying music performance have been so far unexplored. A Finnish research group has now investigated the effect of music performance (in a 2 hr concert) on the gene expression profiles of professional musicians from Tapiola Sinfonietta (a professional orchestra) and Sibelius-Academy (a music university).
Playing music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopaminergic neurotransmission, motor function, learning and memory. Some of the up-regulated genes like SNCA, FOS and DUSP1 are known to contribute to song perception and production in songbirds suggesting a potential evolutionary conservation in molecular mechanisms related to sound production across species.
In addition, several of the up-regulated genes are known to be involved in biological pathways like calcium ion homeostasis and iron ion homeostasis that are essential for neuronal function, survival and neuroprotection.
“The findings provide a valuable background for molecular studies of music perception and evolution, and music therapy”, says the leader of the study, Dr. Irma Järvelä from the University of Helsinki.