Congenital amusics use a secondary pitch mechanism to identify lexical tones

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Abstract

Amusia is a pitch perception disorder associated with deficits in processing and production of both musical and lexical tones, which previous reports have suggested may be constrained to fine-grained pitch judgements. In the present study speakers of tone-languages, in which lexical tones are used to convey meaning, identified words present in chimera stimuli containing conflicting pitch-cues in the temporal fine-structure and temporal envelope, and which therefore conveyed two distinct utterances. Amusics were found to be more likely than controls to judge the word according to the envelope pitch-cues. This demonstrates that amusia is not associated with fine-grained pitch judgements alone, and is consistent with there being two distinct pitch mechanisms and with amusics having an atypical reliance on a secondary mechanism based upon envelope cues.

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Bones, O., & Wong, P. C. M. (2017). Congenital amusics use a secondary pitch mechanism to identify lexical tones. Neuropsychologia, 104, 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.08.004

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