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Neuron. 2002 Jan 17;33(2):185-91.

Congenital amusia: a disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination.

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Department of Psychology, University of Montreal, C.P. 6128 succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada.


We report the first documented case of congenital amusia. This disorder refers to a musical disability that cannot be explained by prior brain lesion, hearing loss, cognitive deficits, socioaffective disturbance, or lack of environmental stimulation. This musical impairment is diagnosed in a middle-aged woman, hereafter referred to as Monica, who lacks most basic musical abilities, including melodic discrimination and recognition, despite normal audiometry and above-average intellectual, memory, and language skills. The results of psychophysical tests show that Monica has severe difficulties with detecting pitch changes. The data suggest that music-processing difficulties may result from problems in fine-grained discrimination of pitch, much in the same way as many language-processing difficulties arise from deficiencies in auditory temporal resolution.

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