Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Music Appreciation

There are few afflictions that affect as many people and are as severe as left-handedness. However I recently heard of another that is almost as bad, and affirms my genetic superiority. Indeed I am not tune deaf (TD). A recent Science Friday program talks to Dr. Allen Braun who investigates tune deafness. Tune deaf essentially means that you can't really distinguish when notes are played off key. Take the Distorted Tunes Test to see if you are tune deaf (beware Quicktime!). If you failed that test I find it hard to believe that you could ever really appreciate music, but a couple of callers into the science friday program say that despite TD they do enjoy music. Fortunately this affects only 2% of the general population so it is not as prevalent a problem as left-handedness. Unfortunately it is highly heritable.
More interestingly, from ScienceNOW (link added):
As expected, these subjects did not have the typical MMN response to poorly played tunes, the team reports today in PLoS One. But to their surprise, the researchers did detect the P300 response to the incorrect notes. Braun believes these results show that the brain can detect the differences even though tune-deaf people aren't aware.
Thus these subjects possibly have a deficiency in transfer between conscience and unconscience knowledge of incorrect tones. The authors of the paper propose:
In light of this, TD may provide a novel opportunity to study conscious perception. Unlike lesion-based disorders such as blindsight it should be possible to study the process in a brain that is structurally intact, and in a patient population that is far larger. In addition, TD is a highly heritable condition, and investigations currently underway may identify the genetic variants that underlie this condition. The tune deaf population may thus constitute a group in which the problem of consciousness might be approached at the cellular and molecular level using the tools of genetic research.


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

how can we be sure that someone is tune-DEAF rather than tune-DIFFERENT? Maybe its the 98% that correctly identify mary had a little lamb thats wrong. or maybe that other 2% enjoys musics in a very unique way . .

The Doc said...

It's also possible that people are appreciating rhythm, rather than tone.

Andy Holroyd said...

Many thanks for posting the link to Science Friday, it's a site I'll enjoy exploring. The podcast with Oliver Sacks is under the mouse next.

Oh, and 24/26 for the tunes. Nice test.

The Doc said...

On the topic of musical talents, does anyone here on the bayblab play an instrument?

kamel said...

On the topic of musical talents, does anyone here on the bayblab play an instrument?

Does Guitar Hero count?

The Doc said...

Does Guitar Hero count?

Probably!

I can play a very basic banjo.