[Paleopsych] NYT: The Senses: Do You Hear What I Hear? Well, Maybe Not
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Sun Sep 11 22:16:01 UTC 2005
The Senses: Do You Hear What I Hear? Well, Maybe Not
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
People who are tone deaf - not your run-of-the-mill bad shower
singers but those who truly cannot hear or produce musical tones - are
actually processing the sounds differently in their brains,
researchers reported yesterday.
The researchers, writing online in Annals of Neurology, said they
found the problem in the right side of the brain. The study was led by
Isabelle Peretz of the University of Montreal.
The researchers, using an EEG to measure brain activity, said they
could instantly detect an abnormal response when a tone-deaf person
heard a note.
Tone-deafness, formally known as amusia, may occur in as much of 4
percent of the population, the study said. A person can be born tone
deaf or develop the problem as a result of injury or illness.
Amusia is related to speech and reading disorders like dyslexia and
dysphasia. A better understanding of it may help doctors devise
treatments for people with the other problems, the researchers said.
For the study, 8 tone-deaf adults and 10 others were connected to an
EEG and asked to listen to a series of musical tones. Half the time,
one of the notes was pitched up or down. The volunteers were asked to
say when they heard a change.
The study found that the brains of amusic volunteers did not respond
to small changes in pitch that caused changes among the other
When the pitch changes were bigger, the study found, the amusic brains
The researchers said more study was needed to narrow down where in the
brain the problem was taking place.
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