Congenital amusia: a disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination

Neuron. 2002 Jan 17;33(2):185-91. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00580-3.


We report the first documented case of congenital amusia. This disorder refers to a musical disability that cannot be explained by prior brain lesion, hearing loss, cognitive deficits, socioaffective disturbance, or lack of environmental stimulation. This musical impairment is diagnosed in a middle-aged woman, hereafter referred to as Monica, who lacks most basic musical abilities, including melodic discrimination and recognition, despite normal audiometry and above-average intellectual, memory, and language skills. The results of psychophysical tests show that Monica has severe difficulties with detecting pitch changes. The data suggest that music-processing difficulties may result from problems in fine-grained discrimination of pitch, much in the same way as many language-processing difficulties arise from deficiencies in auditory temporal resolution.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Pitch Discrimination*
  • Speech Acoustics
  • Speech Perception