Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic, neurodevelopmental disorder, is of keen interest to music cognition researchers because of its characteristic auditory sensitivities and emotional responsiveness to music. However, actual musical perception and production abilities are more variable. We examined musicality in WS through the lens of amusia and explored how their musical perception abilities related to their auditory sensitivities, musical production skills, and emotional responsiveness to music. In our sample of 73 adolescents and adults with WS, 11% met criteria for amusia, which is higher than the 4% prevalence rate reported in the typically developing (TD) population. Amusia was not related to auditory sensitivities but was related to musical training. Performance on the amusia measure strongly predicted musical skill but not emotional responsiveness to music, which was better predicted by general auditory sensitivities. This study represents the first time amusia has been examined in a population with a known neurodevelopmental genetic disorder with a range of cognitive abilities. Results have implications for the relationships across different levels of auditory processing, musical skill development, and emotional responsiveness to music, as well as the understanding of gene-brain-behavior relationships in individuals with WS and TD individuals with and without amusia.
Keywords: Williams syndrome; amusia; auditory sensitivity; music; pitch perception.