Research Roundup: Genome study suggests humans may still be evolving; Happy music may enhance divergent creativity

Research Roundup: Genome study suggests humans may still be evolving; Happy music may enhance divergent creativity

Genome study suggests humans may still be evolving

A recently published study in PLOS Biology suggests that humans may still be evolving. Researchers analyzed harmful genetic variants in the genomes of 210,000 people in the United States and Britain, and found that unfavorable genetic variants linked to Alzheimer’s disease and heavy smoking appear less frequently in people with longer lifespans. Sets of mutations that are associated with asthma and even early puberty were also detected less frequently in long-lived participants.

The study authors were surprised to find relatively few deleterious variants in such a large study, and they believe that natural selection may have removed some already. They take their results to suggest that natural selection is still acting in at least some human populations, weeding out variants that influence fertility unfavorably even today. But they caution that as environments differ and change, traits associated with longer lifespans now may not be helpful in other populations or in the future.

Image Credit: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Research Article: Mostafavi H, Berisa T, Day FR, Perry JRB, Przeworski M, Pickrell JK (2017) Identifying genetic variants that affect viability in large cohorts. PLoS Biol 15(9): e2002458.


Happy music may enhance divergent creativity

According to a new PLOS ONE study, happy music can encourage listeners to generate more solutions to creative problems. Researchers asked 155 participants to listen to music labelled as calm, happy, sad, or anxious, or to work in silence, and meanwhile assessed them on cognitive tasks that tested their creative thinking.

The study authors found that participants came up with the most original and useful solutions to tasks while listening to happy music, indicating that the music might be increasing their divergent creativity, perhaps by encouraging flexible thinking. Further research might examine how other ambient sounds affect creativity and assess if the effect lasts longer than the music’s duration.

Research Article: Ritter SM, Ferguson S (2017) Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0182210.


Beth works at PLOS as Journal Media Manager. She read Natural Sciences, specializing in Pathology, at the University of Cambridge before joining PLOS in 2013. She feels fortunate to be able to read and write about the exciting new research published by PLOS.

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