The ability to make sense of musical sound has been observed in every culture since the beginning of recorded history. In early infancy, it allows us to respond to the sing-song interactions from a primary caregiver and to engage in musical play. In later life it shapes our social and cultural identities and modulates our affective and emotional states. But a few percent of the population fail to develop the ability to make sense of or engage with music. Individuals with congenital amusia cannot recognize familiar tunes, cannot tell one tune from another, frequently complain that music sounds like a “din” and avoid the many social situations in which music plays a role. In her talk Lauren Stewart will present data from perceptual experiments suggesting that individuals with amusia are insensitive to pitch direction and are unable to retain pitch information in memory. In addition, she will discuss ongoing genetic and neuroimaging approaches that we are using to characterize this disorder. The study of disordered musical development sets in sharp relief the perceptual and cognitive abilities which most of us take for granted and give us a unique chance to investigate how musical perceptual ability develops, from the level of the gene to the brain development and the emergence of a complex and fundamental human behavior.
More information on time, location, and the full program see SMART website.
Stewart, L. (2011). Characterizing congenital amusia The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64 (4), 625-638 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2011.552730