Article abstract


Nature Neuroscience 10, 915 - 921 (2007)
Published online: 24 June 2007 | doi:10.1038/nn1925

Amusia is associated with deficits in spatial processing

Katie M Douglas1 & David K Bilkey1


Amusia (commonly referred to as tone-deafness) is a difficulty in discriminating pitch changes in melodies that affects around 4% of the human population. Amusia cannot be explained as a simple sensory impairment. Here we show that amusia is strongly related to a deficit in spatial processing in adults. Compared to two matched control groups (musicians and non-musicians), participants in the amusic group were significantly impaired on a visually presented mental rotation task. Amusic subjects were also less prone to interference in a spatial stimulus-response incompatibility task and performed significantly faster than controls in an interference task in which they were required to make simple pitch discriminations while concurrently performing a mental rotation task. This indicates that the processing of pitch in music normally depends on the cognitive mechanisms that are used to process spatial representations in other modalities.

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  1. Department of Psychology, 95 Union St, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.

Correspondence to: David K Bilkey1 e-mail: dbilkey@psy.otago.ac.nz

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