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Trends Cogn Sci. 2003 Aug;7(8):362-367.

What is specific to music processing? Insights from congenital amusia.

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


Musical abilities are generally regarded as an evolutionary by-product of more important functions, such as those involved in language. However, there is increasing evidence that humans are born with musical predispositions that develop spontaneously into sophisticated knowledge bases and procedures that are unique to music. Recent findings also suggest that the brain is equipped with music-specific neural networks and that these can be selectively compromised by a congenital anomaly. This results in a disorder, congenital amusia, that appears to be limited to the processing of music. Recent evidence points to fine-grained perception of pitch as the root of musical handicap. Hence, musical abilities appear to depend crucially on the fine-tuning of pitch, in much the same way that language abilities rely on fine time resolution.


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