While their friends enjoy the latest hit tunes, people whoare tone deaf – in scientific terms, suffering from amusia – areexcluded from the fun, unable to tell one note from another. Thedisorder can be congenital, present from birth, or acquired followinginjury to the brain.
In an article published online August 29, 2005, in the Annals of Neurology (www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ana), researchers now report the first objective measurement of the brain deficit in congenital amusia.
Thefindings may have implications both for amusia and for speech learningdisabilities, according to lead study author Isabelle Peretz, Ph.D., ofthe University of Montreal.
Peretz and collaborators at theUniversity of Helsinki assessed brain cell responses to tones acrossdifferent brain areas using electroencephalography (EEG).
Comparedto control subjects, people with congenital amusia show abnormal brainactivity in the right half of the brain, consistent with earlierfindings by Peretz's group and others.
It may be possible tocompensate for amusia by training pitch discrimination abilities."However, it is likely that the intervention will only be effective ina 'plastic' brain, in children. We see no sign of improvement inadults," said Peretz.
Amusic adults show a normal range ofintelligence and have no other brain deficits. They get little payofffrom pitch training and typically find it annoying. Their performanceon tests of pitch may even decrease with continued testing.
Thereis greater hope for children, especially since an understanding ofamusia may have broader implications. Researchers believe thatcongenital amusia has similarities with dyslexia and related disorders.
"Ourfindings should contribute to understanding the origins of learningdisorders – the genetic causes and their neural consequences," saidPeretz.
Article: "Abnormal Electrical Brain Responsesto Pitch in Congenital Amusia," Isabelle Peretz, Elvira Brattico, andMari Tervaniemi; Annals of Neurology; Published Online: August 29, 2005(DOI: 10.1002/ana.20606). Article is available via Wiley InterScienceat www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ana.
TheAnnals of Neurology, the preeminent neurological journal worldwide, ispublished by the American Neurological Association, the world's oldestand most prestigious neurological association. The 1,500 members of theANA--selected from among the most respected academic neurologists andneuroscientists in North America and other countries--are devoted tofurthering the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders.For more information, visit www.aneuroa.org.
Materials provided by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Cite This Page: