Automatic brain responses to pitch changes in congenital amusia

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:191-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04775.x.


Congenital amusia is a lifelong disorder affecting the processing of pitch. This pitch deficit can be traced down to abnormal brain responses elicited by pitch changes smaller than a semitone in conditions requiring attention. Here, we use the mismatch negativity (MMN) to investigate pre-attentive pitch change detection in 10 amusics and eight matched controls. Results indicate similar MMN in amusics and controls, even for an eighth of a tone change, revealing that the amusic brain can process small pitch changes at a pre-attentive level. Thus, the pitch deficit in congenital amusia may be related to a problem of perceptual awareness.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*