Perceptual learning of pitch direction in congenital amusia: evidence from Chinese speakers

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Liu, Fang ; Jiang, Cunmei ; Francart, Tom ; Chan, Alice H. D. ; Wong, Patrick C. M. (2017)
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1525/mp.2017.34.3.335
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: humanities | education | behavioral disciplines and activities | otorhinolaryngologic diseases | psychological phenomena and processes

Congenital amusia is a lifelong disorder of musical processing for which no effective treatments have been found. The present study aimed to treat amusics’ impairments in pitch direction identification through auditory training. Prior to training, twenty Chinese-speaking amusics and 20 matched controls were tested on the Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia (MBEA) and two psychophysical pitch threshold tasks for identification of pitch direction in speech and music. Subsequently, ten of the twenty amusics undertook 10 sessions of adaptive-tracking pitch direction training, while the remaining 10 received no training. Post training, all amusics were re-tested on the pitch threshold tasks and on the three pitch-based MBEA subtests. Compared with those untrained, trained amusics demonstrated significantly improved thresholds for pitch direction identification in both speech and music, to the level of non-amusic control participants, although no significant difference was observed between trained and untrained amusics in the MBEA subtests. This provides the first clear positive evidence for improvement in pitch direction processing through auditory training in amusia. Further training studies are required to target different deficit areas in congenital amusia, so as to reveal which aspects of improvement will be most beneficial to the normal functioning of musical processing.
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