Impaired socio-emotional processing in a developmental music disorder

Lima, César F.; Brancatisano, Olivia; Fancourt, Amy; Müllensiefen, Daniel; Scott, Sophie K.; Warren, Jason D. and Stewart, Lauren. 2016. Impaired socio-emotional processing in a developmental music disorder. Nature Scientific Reports, 6(34911), ISSN 2045-2322 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Some individuals show a congenital deficit for music processing despite normal peripheral auditory processing, cognitive functioning, and music exposure. This condition, termed congenital amusia, is typically approached regarding its profile of musical and pitch difficulties. Here, we examine whether amusia also affects socio-emotional processing, probing auditory and visual domains. Thirteen adults with amusia and 11 controls completed two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants judged emotions in emotional speech prosody, nonverbal vocalizations (e.g., crying), and (silent) facial expressions. Target emotions were: amusement, anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, relief, and sadness. Compared to controls, amusics were impaired for all stimulus types, and the magnitude of their impairment was similar for auditory and visual emotions. In Experiment 2, participants listened to spontaneous and posed laughs, and either inferred the authenticity of the speaker’s state, or judged how much laughs were contagious. Amusics showed decreased sensitivity to laughter authenticity, but normal contagion responses. Across the experiments, mixed-effects models revealed that the acoustic features of vocal signals predicted socio-emotional evaluations in both groups, but the profile of predictive acoustic features was different in amusia. These findings suggest that a developmental music disorder can affect socio-emotional cognition in subtle ways, an impairment not restricted to auditory information.

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We thank the authors of the Geneva Multimodal Emotion Portrayals, Tanja Bänziger, Marcello Mortillaro, and Klaus Scherer, for sharing the facial expression videos used in this study. This work was funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Research Grant (grant number SG130465 awarded to L. Stewart and C.F. Lima). During the planning and execution of this project, C.F. Lima was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (grant number SFRH/BPD/77189/2011). The Center for Music in the Brain, which partly supports L. Stewart, is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF117). The preparation of auditory laughter stimuli was funded by a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship (grant number WT090961MA) awarded to S.K. Scott.

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11 October 2016Published
8 September 2016Accepted
27 April 2016Submitted

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28 Feb 2018 12:23

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29 Apr 2020 16:44

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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