Impairments in musical abilities reflected in the auditory brainstem: Evidence from congenital amusia

Alexandre Lehmann, Erika Skoe, Patricia Moreau, Isabelle Peretz*, Nina Kraus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

Congenital amusia is a neurogenetic condition, characterized by a deficit in music perception and production, not explained by hearing loss, brain damage or lack of exposure to music. Despite inferior musical performance, amusics exhibit normal auditory cortical responses, with abnormal neural correlates suggested to lie beyond auditory cortices. Here we show, using auditory brainstem responses to complex sounds in humans, that fine-grained automatic processing of sounds is impoverished in amusia. Compared with matched non-musician controls, spectral amplitude was decreased in amusics for higher harmonic components of the auditory brainstem response. We also found a delayed response to the early transient aspects of the auditory stimulus in amusics. Neural measures of spectral amplitude and response timing correlated with participants' behavioral assessments of music processing. We demonstrate, for the first time, that amusia affects how complex acoustic signals are processed in the auditory brainstem. This neural signature of amusia mirrors what is observed in musicians, such that the aspects of the auditory brainstem responses that are enhanced in musicians are degraded in amusics. By showing that gradients of music abilities are reflected in the auditory brainstem, our findings have implications not only for current models of amusia but also for auditory functioning in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1644-1650
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Keywords

  • Auditory system plasticity
  • Human brainstem
  • Music experience
  • Tone-deafness
  • cABR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience

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