Fine-grained pitch processing of music and speech in congenital amusia.

CNRS, UMR5292,INSERM, U1028, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, Auditory Cognition and Psychoacoustics Team, Lyon, F-69000, France.
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (Impact Factor: 1.65). 12/2011; 130(6):4089-96. DOI: 10.1121/1.3658447
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Congenital amusia is a lifelong disorder of music processing that has been ascribed to impaired pitch perception and memory. The present study tested a large group of amusics (n=17) and provided evidence that their pitch deficit affects pitch processing in speech to a lesser extent: Fine-grained pitch discrimination was better in spoken syllables than in acoustically matched tones. Unlike amusics, control participants performed fine-grained pitch discrimination better for musical material than for verbal material. These findings suggest that pitch extraction can be influenced by the nature of the material (music vs speech), and that amusics' pitch deficit is not restricted to musical material, but extends to segmented speech events.

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    ABSTRACT: The combination of information across senses can enhance perception, as revealed for example by decreased reaction times or improved stimulus detection. Interestingly, these facilitatory effects have been shown to be maximal when responses to unisensory modalities are weak. The present study investigated whether audiovisual facilitation can be observed in congenital amusia, a music-specific disorder primarily ascribed to impairments of pitch processing. Amusic individuals and their matched controls performed two tasks. In Task 1, they were required to detect auditory, visual, or audiovisual stimuli as rapidly as possible. In Task 2, they were required to detect as accurately and as rapidly as possible a pitch change within an otherwise monotonic 5-tone sequence that was presented either only auditorily (A condition), or simultaneously with a temporally congruent, but otherwise uninformative visual stimulus (AV condition). Results of Task 1 showed that amusics exhibit typical auditory and visual detection, and typical audiovisual integration capacities: both amusics and controls exhibited shorter response times for audiovisual stimuli than for either auditory stimuli or visual stimuli. Results of Task 2 revealed that both groups benefited from simultaneous uninformative visual stimuli to detect pitch changes: accuracy was higher and response times shorter in the AV condition than in the A condition. The audiovisual improvements of response times were observed for different pitch interval sizes depending on the group. These results suggest that both typical listeners and amusic individuals can benefit from multisensory integration to improve their pitch processing abilities and that this benefit varies as a function of task difficulty. These findings constitute the first step towards the perspective to exploit multisensory paradigms to reduce pitch-related deficits in congenital amusia, notably by suggesting that audiovisual paradigms are effective in an appropriate range of unimodal performance. Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
    Neuropsychologia 12/2014; 67. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.12.006 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pitch plays a fundamental role in audition, from speech and music perception to auditory scene analysis. Congenital amusia is a neurogenetic disorder that appears to affect primarily pitch and melody perception. Pitch is normally conveyed by the spectro-temporal fine structure of low harmonics, but some pitch information is available in the temporal envelope produced by the interactions of higher harmonics. Using 10 amusic subjects and 10 matched controls, we tested the hypothesis that amusics suffer exclusively from impaired processing of spectro-temporal fine structure. We also tested whether the inability of amusics to process acoustic temporal fine structure extends beyond pitch by measuring sensitivity to interaural time differences, which also rely on temporal fine structure. Further tests were carried out on basic intensity and spectral resolution. As expected, pitch perception based on spectro-temporal fine structure was impaired in amusics; however, no significant deficits were observed in amusics' ability to perceive the pitch conveyed via temporal-envelope cues. Sensitivity to interaural time differences was also not significantly different between the amusic and control groups, ruling out deficits in the peripheral coding of temporal fine structure. Finally, no significant differences in intensity or spectral resolution were found between the amusic and control groups. The results demonstrate a pitch-specific deficit in fine spectro-temporal information processing in amusia that seems unrelated to temporal or spectral coding in the auditory periphery. These results are consistent with the view that there are distinct mechanisms dedicated to processing resolved and unresolved harmonics in the general population, the former being altered in congenital amusia while the latter is spared.
    Neuropsychologia 11/2014; 66. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.11.031 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Congenital amusia is a neurodevelopmental disorder of musical processing that also impacts subtle aspects of speech processing. It remains debated at what stage(s) of auditory processing deficits in amusia arise. In this study, we investigated whether amusia originates from impaired subcortical encoding of speech (in quiet and noise) and musical sounds in the brainstem. Fourteen Cantonese-speaking amusics and 14 matched controls passively listened to six Cantonese lexical tones in quiet, two Cantonese tones in noise (signal-to-noise ratios at 0 and 20 dB), and two cello tones in quiet while their frequency-following responses (FFRs) to these tones were recorded. All participants also completed a behavioral lexical tone identification task. The results indicated normal brainstem encoding of pitch in speech (in quiet and noise) and musical stimuli in amusics relative to controls, as measured by FFR pitch strength, pitch error, and stimulus-to-response correlation. There was also no group difference in neural conduction time or FFR amplitudes. Both groups demonstrated better FFRs to speech (in quiet and noise) than to musical stimuli. However, a significant group difference was observed for tone identification, with amusics showing significantly lower accuracy than controls. Analysis of the tone confusion matrices suggested that amusics were more likely than controls to confuse between tones that shared similar acoustic features. Interestingly, this deficit in lexical tone identification was not coupled with brainstem abnormality for either speech or musical stimuli. Together, our results suggest that the amusic brainstem is not functioning abnormally, although higher-order linguistic pitch processing is impaired in amusia. This finding has significant implications for theories of central auditory processing, requiring further investigations into how different stages of auditory processing interact in the human brain.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 01/2014; 8:1029. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.01029 · 2.90 Impact Factor

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Jun 2, 2014

Barbara Tillmann