Summary: Researchers discovered sequence variants in the gene ABCC9 that influence voice pitch.
Utilizing speech recordings from nearly 13,000 Icelanders and corresponding genomic data, the scientists identified common ABCC9 variants associated with higher voice pitch in both men and women. Additionally, these variants were linked to higher pulse pressure, revealing intriguing connections between voice pitch and health.
The study also uncovered a heritable component in vowel acoustics, enhancing our understanding of the human vocal system.
- This is the first comprehensive study exploring the genetic underpinnings of voice pitch, utilizing a large dataset of 13,000 Icelandic individuals.
- The research not only identified genetic variants influencing voice pitch but also highlighted an unexpected link to cardiovascular health, with the same variants associated with higher pulse pressure.
- While the influence of culture and context on vowel sounds is recognized, this study found a heritable component tied to vowel acoustics, likely associated with the shape of the vocal tract.
Source: deCODE Genetics
In a paper published today in Science Advances, an international team led by deCODE genetics, a subsidiary of Amgen, reveals the discovery of sequence variants in the gene ABCC9 that influence the pitch of voices.
Speaking is one of the most characteristic human behaviors, and yet the genetic underpinnings of voice and speech are largely unknown.
Speaking is one of the most characteristic human behaviors, and yet the genetic underpinnings of voice and speech are largely unknown. Credit: Neuroscience News
In the first study of its kind, the scientists combined speech recordings from almost 13,000 Icelanders with data, in the sequence of the genome, to search for common variants in ABCC9 that are associated with a higher-pitched voice.
The scientists found that ABCC9 variants associate with higher voice pitch in both men and women. The same sequence variants are also linked to higher pulse pressure, a cardiovascular risk factor, highlighting links between voice pitch and health-related traits.
In addition to voice pitch, the study investigated the genetics of vowel acoustics. While vowel sounds such as ah or ee are clearly influenced by culture and context, the scientists found that such measures contain a heritable component, which likely has to do with the shape of the vocal tract and its effect on vowel sounds.
The findings shed new light on diversity in voice and speech and contribute to a better understanding of the human vocal system.
Sequence variants affecting voice pitch in humans
The genetic basis of the human vocal system is largely unknown, as are the sequence variants that give rise to individual differences in voice and speech.
Here, we couple data on diversity in the sequence of the genome with voice and vowel acoustics in speech recordings from 12,901 Icelanders.
We show how voice pitch and vowel acoustics vary across the life span and correlate with anthropometric, physiological, and cognitive traits.
We found that voice pitch and vowel acoustics have a heritable component and discovered correlated common variants in ABCC9 that associate with voice pitch. The ABCC9 variants also associate with adrenal gene expression and cardiovascular traits.
By showing that voice and vowel acoustics are influenced by genetics, we have taken important steps toward understanding the genetics and evolution of the human vocal system.