If TikTok has taught us anything, it’s that some people are genuinely good at dancing. But if you’re like me and can’t dance to save your life, I’m very pleased to tell you we now have an excuse: It’s all the fault of genetics.
A new study by Vanderbilt Genetics Institute researchers in collaboration with 23andMe found a genetic link to our ability — and inability — to move to musical rhythm in time. Using data from more than 600,000 participants, the study identified 69 (nice) genetic variants related to the ability to move in synchrony with music.
“Rhythm is not just influenced by a single gene — it’s influenced by many hundreds of genes,” explained associate professor Reyna Gordon, co-director of the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab, in a press release. These good dancing genes, per the research, are likely involved in central nervous system function, which includes genes expressed in brain tissue and those associated with early brain development.
In the study, researchers also asked participants if they could clap in time with a beat as well as tap in time to the beat, along with performing a “rhythm perception task.” They found that people tended to self-report whether they could keep a beat or not honestly, which means us “rhythmically challenged” people know it, and good dancers are well aware of their abilities, too.
Ultimately, the new research shows that there’s no shame in having no rhythm. So what if you won’t be dancing your way to TikTok stardom? It’s just not in your genes.