JOURNAL ARTICLE

Amusia results in abnormal brain activity following inappropriate intonation during speech comprehension

Cunmei Jiang, Jeff P Hamm, Vanessa K Lim, Ian J Kirk, Xuhai Chen, Yufang Yang
PloS One 2012, 7 (7): e41411
22859982
Pitch processing is a critical ability on which humans' tonal musical experience depends, and which is also of paramount importance for decoding prosody in speech. Congenital amusia refers to deficits in the ability to properly process musical pitch, and recent evidence has suggested that this musical pitch disorder may impact upon the processing of speech sounds. Here we present the first electrophysiological evidence demonstrating that individuals with amusia who speak Mandarin Chinese are impaired in classifying prosody as appropriate or inappropriate during a speech comprehension task. When presented with inappropriate prosody stimuli, control participants elicited a larger P600 and smaller N100 relative to the appropriate condition. In contrast, amusics did not show significant differences between the appropriate and inappropriate conditions in either the N100 or the P600 component. This provides further evidence that the pitch perception deficits associated with amusia may also affect intonation processing during speech comprehension in those who speak a tonal language such as Mandarin, and suggests music and language share some cognitive and neural resources.

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