Perception and action de-coupling in congenital amusia: sensitivity to task demands

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  • Victoria J Williamson
  • ,
  • Fang Liu
  • ,
  • Guy Peryer, Denmark
  • Mick Grierson
  • ,
  • Lauren Stewart

Theories that purport the existence of a distinct auditory action stream have received support from the finding that individuals with congenital amusia, a disorder of pitch perception, are able to reproduce the direction of a pitch change that they are unable to identify (Loui, Guenther, Mathys, & Schlaug, 2008). Although this finding has proved influential in theorizing about the existence of an auditory action-stream, aspects of the original study warrant further investigation. The present report attempts to replicate the original study's findings across a sizeable cohort of individuals with amusia (n=14), obtaining action (production) and perception thresholds for pitch direction. In contrast to the original study, we find evidence of a double dissociation: while a minority of amusics had lower (better) thresholds for production compared to perception of pitch, more than half showed the reverse pattern. To explore the impact of task demands, perception thresholds were also measured using a two alternative, criterion-free, forced choice task that avoided labeling demands. Controls' thresholds were task-invariant while amusics' thresholds were significantly task-dependent. We argue that the direction and extent of a perception/production dissociation in this population reflects individual differences in the mapping of pitch representations to labels ("up"; "down") and to the vocal apparatus, as opposed to anything intrinsically yoked to perception or action per se.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume50
Issue1
Pages (from-to)172-80
Number of pages9
ISSN0028-3932
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

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