A Finnish research group recently reported the effect of music performance (in a 2- hour 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, according to the researchers. 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.

“Additionally, modulation of genes related to calcium ion homeostasis, iron ion homeostasis, glutathione metabolism, and several neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases implied that music performance may affect the biological pathways that are otherwise essential for the proper maintenance of neuronal function and survival,” wrote the investigators in their study (“The effect of music performance on the transcriptome of professional musicians”), which was published in Scientific Reports.

“The findings provide a valuable background for molecular studies of music perception and evolution, and music therapy”, says the leader of the study, Irma Järvelä, Ph.D., from the University of Helsinki.