Gray- and white-matter anatomy of absolute pitch possessors

Cereb Cortex. 2015 May;25(5):1379-88. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht334. Epub 2013 Dec 4.


Absolute pitch (AP), the ability to identify a musical pitch without a reference, has been examined behaviorally in numerous studies for more than a century, yet only a few studies have examined the neuroanatomical correlates of AP. Here, we used MRI and diffusion tensor imaging to investigate structural differences in brains of musicians with and without AP, by means of whole-brain vertex-wise cortical thickness (CT) analysis and tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) analysis. APs displayed increased CT in a number of areas including the bilateral superior temporal gyrus (STG), the left inferior frontal gyrus, and the right supramarginal gyrus. Furthermore, we found higher fractional anisotropy in APs within the path of the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, the uncinate fasciculus, and the inferior longitudinal fasciculus. The findings in gray matter support previous studies indicating an increased left lateralized posterior STG in APs, yet they differ from previous findings of thinner cortex for a number of areas in APs. Finally, we found a relation between the white-matter results and the CT in the right parahippocampal gyrus. In this study, we present novel findings in AP research that may have implications for the understanding of the neuroanatomical underpinnings of AP ability.

Keywords: DTI; TBSS; absolute pitch; cortical thickness; music.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anisotropy
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Motor Skills*
  • Music*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Occipital Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology
  • White Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • Young Adult