Are Dancers Genetically Different?

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found that dancers are in fact, genetically different to the general population.

The study which was published in PLoS Genetics, by Prof. Richard P. Ebstein of the Department of Psychology, proved through DNA examination, that dancers show significant variations in two key genes.

Ebstein, the head of the Scheinfeld Center for Human Genetics in Social Sciences in the Department of Psychology, cites these findings as “unsurprising”.

This report illustrates findings similar to other studies, which found musicians and athletes also having major genetic differences.

In an examination of eighty-five dancers and advanced dancing students in Israel, Ebstein and his colleagues found variants of two genes that provide the code for arginine vasopressin receptor 1a, and the serotonin transporter.

Both of these genes are responsible for information transmission between nerve cells. The serotonin transporter standardises levels of serotonin, a brain transmitter that contributes to spiritual experiences, as well as a host of other behavioural traits.

In many previous animal studies, the vasopressin receptor has been known to temper social interaction and affiliative bonding activities. Both are components required for the age-old social expression that is dance.

Two surveys which were conducted with the dancers substantiated the chromosomal evidence. The Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) which is a measure of the need for social contact and openness to communication; the other being the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS), which links aspects of spirituality and altered states of consciousness.

Distribution of Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS) in Female Dancers and Nondancers/Nonathletes.  doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0010042.g001

The questionnaire results together with the genetic results of the dancers, were compared with those from two other groups – athletes, as well as those who were not athletes or dancers

Following the results being analyzed, it was clearly evident that the dancers exhibited particular genetic and personality characteristics that were not found in the other two groups.

Following the results being collated and analyzed, it was clearly evident that the dancers displayed specific personality and genetic variations; none of which were found in the opposing test group.

Ebstein says the “dancer type” clearly demonstrates a heightened sense of communication, often of a ceremonial nature, and a strong spiritual personality trait. These qualities are not necessarily lacking in others, but are seen to be as strong.
Others involved in the research were Ph.D. student Rachel Bachner-Melman, as well as additional researchers from Israel and France.