Sunday, December 11, 2011

A case of congenital beat deafness? [Part 2]

Isabelle Peretz, Co-director of the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research (BRAMS), told me about Mathieu during a workshop at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in November 2009. She was very excited, and I couldn’t but share her enthusiasm: She was pretty sure she found a beat-deaf person.
'Mathieu was discovered through a recruitment of subjects who felt they could not keep the beat in music, such as in clapping in time at a concert or dancing in a club. Mathieu was the only clear-cut case among volunteers who reported these problems. Despite a lifelong love of music and dancing, and musical training including lessons over several years in various instruments, voice, dance and choreography, Mathieu complained that he was unable to find the beat in music. Participation in music and dance activities, while pleasurable, had been difficult for him.' (from Phillips-Silver et al., 2011)
About one year later her group published a journal paper presenting some behavioral evidence that Mathieu was a case of congenital beat deafness.

The questions posted in a blog entry just after the publication of that study resulted in a collaboration in which next to behavioral also direct electrophysiological methods were used. Pascale Lidji (also associated with BRAMS) did an EEG/ERP experiment, modeled after our earlier Amsterdam experiments, to directly probe Mathieu’s apparent beat-deafness.

Last week we had a teleconference discussing the first experimental results (filmed by a Dutch TV crew following our work). These suggest that Mathieu’s brain did pick-up the beat, but his conscious perception did not, as several behavioral experiments confirmed. Intriguing, to say the least.

See below for some fragments from the teleconference:

And the trailer announcing the tv program to be broadcasted next week:

For more information, see the Labyrint tv website.

N.B. There will be a live broadcasted napraatsessie that can be viewed at

ResearchBlogging.orgPhillips-Silver, J., Toiviainen, P., Gosselin, N., Piché, O., Nozaradan, S., Palmer, C., & Peretz, I. (2011). Born to dance but beat deaf: A new form of congenital amusia Neuropsychologia DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.02.002

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