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Cogn Neuropsychol. 2013;30(5):311-31. doi: 10.1080/02643294.2013.863183.

Amusic does not mean unmusical: beat perception and synchronization ability despite pitch deafness.

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a International Laboratory for Brain , Music and Sound Research (BRAMS), University of Montreal , Montreal , QC , Canada.


Pitch deafness, the most commonly known form of congenital amusia, refers to a severe deficit in musical pitch processing (i.e., melody discrimination and recognition) that can leave time processing--including rhythm, metre, and "feeling the beat"--preserved. In Experiment 1, we show that by presenting musical excerpts in nonpitched drum timbres, rather than pitched piano tones, amusics show normal metre recognition. Experiment 2 reveals that body movement influences amusics' interpretation of the beat of an ambiguous drum rhythm. Experiment 3 and a subsequent exploratory study show an ability to synchronize movement to the beat of popular dance music and potential for improvement when given a modest amount of practice. Together the present results are consistent with the idea that rhythm and beat processing are spared in pitch deafness--that is, being pitch-deaf does not mean one is beat-deaf. In the context of drum music especially, amusics can be musical.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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