Researchers have discovered the brain patterns associated with amusia or tone deafness in people and they feel these may be also associated with other learning disorders like dyslexia.
While their friends enjoy the latest hit tunes, people who are tone deaf -- in scientific terms, suffering from amusia -- are excluded from the fun, unable to tell one note from another. The disorder can be congenital, present from birth, or acquired following injury to the brain.
In an article published online August issue, in the Annals of Neurology, researchers now report the first objective measurement of the brain deficit in congenital amusia.
The findings may have implications both for amusia and for speech learning disabilities, said the researchers of the University of Montreal who had conducted the study.
Researchers had assessed brain cell responses to tones across different brain areas using electroencephalography (EEG).
Compared to control subjects, people with congenital amusia show abnormal brain activity in the right half of the brain, consistent with earlier findings by the researchers.
It may be possible to compensate for amusia by training pitch discrimination abilities. Amusic adults show a normal range of intelligence and have no other brain deficits. They get little payoff from pitch training and typically find it annoying. Their performance on tests of pitch may even decrease with continued testing.
There is greater hope for children, especially since an understanding of amusia may have broader implications. Researchers believe that congenital amusia has similarities with dyslexia and related disorders. These findings should contribute to understanding the origins of learning disorders - the genetic causes and their neural consequences, opined the scientists of the study.