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Journal Article

Classifying song and speech: Effects of focal temporal lesions and musical disorder


Merrill,  Julia
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Neuropsychology , Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences ;
Institute of Music , University of Kassel;

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Merrill, J., Bangert, M., Sammler, D., & Friederici, A. D. (2016). Classifying song and speech: Effects of focal temporal lesions and musical disorder. Neurocase, 22(6), 496-504. doi:10.1080/13554794.2016.1237660.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-884B-B
Song and speech represent two auditory categories the brain usually classifies fairly easily. Functionally, this classification ability may depend to a great extent on characteristic features of pitch patterns present in song melody and speech prosody. Anatomically, the temporal lobe (TL) has been discussed as playing a prominent role in the processing of both. Here we tested individuals with congenital amusia and patients with unilateral left and right TL lesions in their ability to categorize song and speech. In a forced-choice paradigm, specifically designed auditory stimuli representing sung, spoken and "ambiguous" stimuli (being perceived as "halfway between" song and speech), had to be classified as either "song" or "speech". Congenital amusics and TL patients, contrary to controls, exhibited a surprising bias to classifying the ambiguous stimuli as "song" despite their apparent deficit to correctly process features typical for song. This response bias possibly reflects a strategy where, based on available context information (here: forced choice for either speech or song), classification of non-processable items may be achieved through elimination of processable classes. This speech-based strategy masks the pitch processing deficit in congenital amusics and TL lesion patients.