Public Release: 

Pitch perfect: Brain differences behind a rare musical ability

Absolute pitch may be more strongly under genetic control than previously thought

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Figure 3. Population receptive field (pRF) maps of tonotopy (center frequency) and tuning sharpness (Q) in auditory cortex in representative subjects from each group. view more 

Credit: McKetton et al., JNeurosci (2019)

New research published in JNeurosci reports features of the brain in musicians with absolute, or perfect, pitch (AP) that likely enable individuals with this rare ability -- shared by Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven -- to precisely identify musical notes.

Keith Schneider and colleagues compared auditory cortex structure and activity of three groups of 20 participants, including AP musicians, non-AP musicians of similar musical expertise, and a control group of individuals with minimal musical training. The AP musicians had a significantly larger auditory cortex capable of representing distinct tones without a reference note.

AP is rare, even among expert musicians, and the relative contribution of genetics and experience to this ability is debated. These findings suggest AP may be more strongly under genetic control than previously thought, given that nearly one quarter of the AP musicians did not begin musical training until adolescence.

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Article: Larger auditory cortical area and broader frequency tuning underlie absolute pitch

DOI: https://www.jneurosci.org/lookup/doi/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1532-18.2019

Corresponding author: Keith Schneider (University of Delaware, Newark, USA), keithas@udel.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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