Memory for pitch in congenital amusia: beyond a fine-grained pitch discrimination problem

Victoria Jane Williamson, Lauren Stewart

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Congenital amusia is a disorder that affects the perception and production of music. While amusia has been associated with deficits in pitch discrimination, several reports suggest that memory deficits also play a role. The present study investigated short-term memory span for pitch-based and verbal information in 14 individuals with amusia and matched controls. Analogous adaptive-tracking procedures were used to generate tone and digit spans using stimuli that exceeded psychophysically measured pitch perception thresholds. Individuals with amusia had significantly smaller tone spans, whereas their digits spans were a similar size to those of controls. An automated operation span task was used to determine working memory capacity. Working memory deficits were seen in only a small subgroup of individuals with amusia. These findings support the existence of a pitch-specific component within short-term memory and suggest that congenital amusia is more than a disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-69
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


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