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Behav Brain Res. 2015 Nov 1;294:141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.08.003. Epub 2015 Aug 5.

From amusic to musical?--Improving pitch memory in congenital amusia with transcranial alternating current stimulation.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany. Electronic address:
Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Institute for Language and Information, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Psychology, Medical Faculty, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Brain imaging studies highlighted structural differences in congenital amusia, a life-long perceptual disorder that is associated with pitch perception and pitch memory deficits. A functional anomaly characterized by decreased low gamma oscillations (30-40 Hz range) in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during pitch memory has been revealed recently. Thus, the present study investigates whether applying transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at 35 Hz to the right DLPFC would improve pitch memory. Nine amusics took part in two tACS sessions (either 35 Hz or 90 Hz) and completed a pitch and visual memory task before and during stimulation. 35 Hz stimulation facilitated pitch memory significantly. No modulation effects were found with 90 Hz stimulation or on the visual task. While amusics showed a selective impairment of pitch memory before stimulation, the performance during 35 Hz stimulation was not significantly different to healthy controls anymore. Taken together, the study shows that modulating the right DLPFC with 35 Hz tACS in congenital amusia selectively improves pitch memory performance supporting the hypothesis that decreased gamma oscillations within the DLPFC are causally involved in disturbed pitch memory and highlight the potential use of tACS to interact with cognitive processes.


Congenital amusia; Memory; Pitch; Right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; Transcranial alternating current stimulation

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