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Pitch memory in musicians with and without absolute pitch


Schulze,  Katrin
Max Planck Research Group Neurocognition of Music, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Schulze, K., Gaab, N., & Schlaug, G. (2003). Pitch memory in musicians with and without absolute pitch. Poster presented at 10th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, New York, NY, USA.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-D0FE-7
Previous reports have shown anatomical differences between musicians with absolute pitch (AP) and without absolute pitch (non-AP). Whether or not these structural differences (e.g., planum temporale) are also associated with functional differences in these anatomical regions or in other regions of the brain is not well examined. AP (n = 6) and non-AP (n = 6) subjects performed an auditory memory task contrasted with a motor control condition using a variation of a sparse temporal sample technique separating the MR scanning from the actual auditory stimulation. In the pitch memory task, subjects had to listen to a sequence of 6-7 tones and then compare the last or second-to-last tone with the first tone and make a decision (depending on a visual prompt). Preliminary analysis showed that AP compared to non-AP subjects had more superior parietal lobe activations while non-AP compared to AP showed more cerebellar activation. These results indicate different processing strategies in these two groups differing in their AP ability. While non-AP subjects seem to rely on the cerebellum, which might play an important role in ongoing auditory discrimination during the pitch memory task, AP subjects seem to rely more on the superior parietal lobe, a polymodal association region. The SPL might facilitate the matching of auditory and visual percepts, since AP musicians frequently reported visualizing individual notes on a staff or categorizing individual tones into pitch classes and then memorize tone names to solve the task.