MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Keith Schneider PhD
Director, Center for Biomedical and Brain Imaging
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of Delaware
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Absolute pitch is the ability to name a musical note in isolation. It is rare in the population, approximately 1/10,000 people have it. The neural mechanisms of this ability have not been clear. It is not known whether people with absolute pitch encode auditory frequencies differently, or whether absolute pitch derives from the same sensory encoding but different memory connections.
We tested 20 people with absolute pitch, 20 matched musicians with the same number of years of musical training, age of onset of musical training, and number of hours of practice per week, as well as 20 controls with minimal musical training.
The main findings are that people with absolute pitch have larger early auditory cortex—primary auditory cortex was enlarged about 50% relative to the other two groups, which did not differ significantly from each other. We also found that the tuning bandwidth of the individual voxels in the early auditory cortical areas was broader in people with absolute pitch.
That is, these small bits of the brain responded to a wide range of frequencies than those in the other two groups. This suggested to us that people with absolute pitch might imply what is known as “ensemble encoding”. That is, they use a larger network of neurons to encode sounds. Continue reading