Intonation processing in congenital amusia: discrimination, identification and imitation

Brain. 2010 Jun;133(Pt 6):1682-93. doi: 10.1093/brain/awq089. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


This study investigated whether congenital amusia, a neuro-developmental disorder of musical perception, also has implications for speech intonation processing. In total, 16 British amusics and 16 matched controls completed five intonation perception tasks and two pitch threshold tasks. Compared with controls, amusics showed impaired performance on discrimination, identification and imitation of statements and questions that were characterized primarily by pitch direction differences in the final word. This intonation-processing deficit in amusia was largely associated with a psychophysical pitch direction discrimination deficit. These findings suggest that amusia impacts upon one's language abilities in subtle ways, and support previous evidence that pitch processing in language and music involves shared mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders*
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Speech
  • Speech Perception*
  • Task Performance and Analysis