Singing in the Brain: Insights from Cognitive Neuropsychology

  • PERETZ I
  • GAGNON L
  • HEBERT S
 et al. 
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Abstract

Singing abilities are rarely examined despite the fact that their study repre-sents one of the richest sources of information regarding how music is processed in the brain. In particular, the analysis of singing performance in brain-damaged patients provides key information regarding the autonomy of music processing relative to language processing. Here, we review the relevant literature, mostly on the perception and memory of text and tunes in songs, and we illustrate how lyrics can be distinguished from melody in singing, in the case of brain damage. We report a new case, G.D., who has a severe speech disorder, marked by phonemic errors and stuttering, with-out a concomitant musical production disorder. G.D. was found to pro-duce as few intelligible words in speaking as in singing familiar songs. Sing-ing “la, la, la” was intact and hence could not account for the speech deficit observed in singing. The results indicate that verbal production, be it sung or spoken, is mediated by the same (impaired) language output system and that this speech route is distinct from the (spared) melodic route. In sum, we provide here further evidence that the autonomy of music and language processing extends to production tasks.

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Authors

  • ISABELLE PERETZ

  • LISE GAGNON

  • SYLVIE HEBERT

  • JOEL MACOIR

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