Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC)

Are we musical animals?

Developing a Roadmap for Using Intrinsically Motivating Games for Identifying the Musicality Phenotype

07Dec2017 09:00 - 17:00


December 7th workshop at the international conference ‘SMART Animals’ at the University of Amsterdam.

Workshop description

While there is still quite some debate on the cultural and biological origins of music, there is a growing consensus that musicality has deep biological foundations, based on an accumulation of evidence for the involvement of genetic variation (Gingras, Honing, Peretz, Trainor & Fisher, 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Oikkonen, Onkamo, Järvelä & Kanduri, 2016; Peretz, 2016). Recent advances in molecular technologies provide an effective way of exploring these biological foundations. Next to examining clustering in families and co-occurrence in twins of extreme levels of musical ability, genome-wide genotyping offers a promising route to capture the polymorphic content of a large phenotyped population sample. The success of genetic studies of musical ability is, however, critically dependent on a robust, objective, and reliable measure of the musicality phenotype.

The proposed workshop will evaluate existing measures of musicality, such as the Goldsmiths Music Sophistication index (GOLD-MSI), AMMA, MET, Karma, Seashore, etc., and discuss the opportunities to administer these standardized aptitude tests online, especially using web-based and engaging gaming techniques. The latter will provide an important step towards high-powered genome-wide screens to be able to effectively analyse musical phenotypes (Gingras et al., 2015). We will open the workshop with invited talks from four leading experts in the field, two approaching the problem from a more biological angle and two approaching it from a more musicological angle. In the afternoon, our own Music Cognition Group will demonstrate some of its current game-based research on musical phenotypes, followed by a session of short student papers selected via an open international call for abstracts.


Workshop organizers

John Ashley Burgoyne, University of Amsterdam
Henkjan Honing, University of Amsterdam

Published by  SMART Cognitive Science