IMR Press / JIN / Volume 20 / Issue 4 / DOI: 10.31083/j.jin2004110
Open Access Perspective
Genes, brain dynamics and art: the genetic underpinnings of creativity in dancing, musicality and visual arts
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1 Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
2 Multiple Sclerosis and Demyelinating Diseases Unit & Immunogenetics Laboratory, 1st Department of Neurology, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Aeginition University Hospital, 11528 Athens, Greece
*Correspondence: (Maria Anagnostouli)
J. Integr. Neurosci. 2021, 20(4), 1095–1104;
Submitted: 13 April 2021 | Revised: 18 May 2021 | Accepted: 18 August 2021 | Published: 30 December 2021
Copyright: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license (

Creativity, art and artistic creation in music, dance and visual arts are brain activities specific to humans. Their genetic background remained unexplored for years, but many recent studies have uncovered significant associations with cognition-related genes and loci. These studies are summarized in the present article. Creativity is a trait with heavy genetic influences, which are also associated with mental disorders and altruism. Associated genes include dopaminergic, serotoninergic and other genes (a1-antitrypsin, neuregulin, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Music is another complex phenotype with important genetic background. Studies in musicians and their families have highlighted the contribution of loci (e.g., 4q22) and specific genes (vasopressin receptor 1α and serotonin transporter). The latter two are also associated with dancing. Although few studies have investigated visual arts, they appear to be influenced by genetic differences, which could explain the increased prevalence of synesthesia in artists and individuals with autism. Lastly, although genes play an important role in creativity and art, epigenetics and the environment should not be overlooked. The genetic exploration of artistic creativity may provide useful knowledge on cognition, behavior and brain function. It may also enable targeted and personalized art therapy in health and disease.

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