Processing of emotional faces in congenital amusia: An emotional music priming event-related potential study

Neuroimage Clin. 2017 Mar 2;14:602-609. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2017.02.024. eCollection 2017.


Congenital amusia is characterized by lifelong impairments in music perception and processing. It is unclear whether pitch detection deficits impact amusic individuals' perception of musical emotion. In the current work, 19 amusics and 21 healthy controls were subjected to electroencephalography (EEG) while being exposed to music excerpts and emotional faces. We assessed each individual's ability to discriminate positive- and negative-valenced emotional faces and analyzed electrophysiological indices, in the form of event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded at 32 sites, following exposure to emotionally positive or negative music excerpts. We observed smaller N2 amplitudes in response to facial expressions in the amusia group than in the control group, suggesting that amusics were less affected by the musical stimuli. The late-positive component (LPC) in amusics was similar to that in controls. Our results suggest that the neurocognitive deficit characteristic of congenital amusia is fundamentally an impairment in musical information processing rather than an impairment in emotional processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception*
  • Young Adult

Supplementary concepts

  • Tune Deafness