Neurobiology of Congenital Amusia

Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Nov;20(11):857-867. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.09.002. Epub 2016 Sep 29.


The past decade of research has provided compelling evidence that musical engagement is a fundamental human trait, and its biological basis is increasingly scrutinized. In this endeavor, the detailed study of individuals who have musical deficiencies is instructive because of likely neurogenetic underpinnings. Such individuals have 'congenital amusia', an umbrella term for lifelong musical disabilities that cannot be attributed to intellectual disability, lack of exposure, or brain damage after birth. Key points are reviewed here that have emerged during recent years regarding the neurobiology of the disorder, focusing on the importance of recurrent processing between the right inferior frontal cortex and the auditory cortex for conscious monitoring of musical pitch, and how this relates to developmental cognitive disorders in general.

Keywords: awareness; brain connectivity; congenital amusia; pitch.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / pathology
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Neurobiology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Tune Deafness

Grant support