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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02604

Genetic and environmental influences on decoding skills - implications for music and reading

 Tracy M. Centanni1*,  Mona Anchan2, Maggie Beard3, Renee Brooks3, Lee Thompson4 and  Stephen Petrill3
  • 1Texas Christian University, United States
  • 2University of Alabama, United States
  • 3The Ohio State University, United States
  • 4Case Western Reserve University, United States

Music education is associated with increased speech perception abilities and anecdotal evidence suggests musical training is also beneficial for performance in a variety of academic areas. In spite of this positive association, very little empirical evidence exists to support this claim except for a few studies linking musical training to improvements in verbal tasks. We evaluated the relationships between specific aspects of musical training/ability and scores on a series of standardized reading assessments in a sample of twins. There was a significant and positive relationship between self-reported sight-reading ability for sheet music and performance on passage comprehension- a standardized reading measure that relies on decoding and working memory. This effect was specific to sight reading ability, as other musical variables, such as number of years of practice or music theory, were not related to performance on this reading measure. Surprisingly, the verbal working memory ability we tested did not mediate this relationship. To determine whether there is a genetic component to these skills, we compared these relationships in pairs of monozygotic twins compared to dizygotic twins. Interestingly, intraclass correlations (ICC) for sight reading and passage comprehension were both higher in monozygotic twins compared to dizygotic twins, though this effect was larger for passage comprehension than for sight reading. These results together suggest a familial and potentially partially shared inherited mechanism for success in both musical sight-reading ability and passage comprehension.

Keywords: reading, Music, genetic, Education, Passage comprehension, Decoding

Received: 13 Jun 2019; Accepted: 04 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Centanni, Anchan, Beard, Brooks, Thompson and Petrill. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Tracy M. Centanni, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, 76129, Texas, United States,