Studies into the cognitive and neural basis of congenital amusia

Omigie, Diana. 2012. Studies into the cognitive and neural basis of congenital amusia. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The majority of humans develop a facility with music effortlessly and in the absence of explicit training. However some individuals show a distinct lack of musical ability despite seeming to have otherwise normal cognitive functioning. Based on initial studies into congenital amusia, poor pitch discrimination ability and poor pitch memory have been ascribed a central role in the condition. However, the extent to which these play a causal role in the more global difficulties associated with the disorder remains unclear. Furthermore, with the disorder increasingly being conceived of as one of awareness rather than perception, an integrated account of the disorder in which the relative importance of observed impairments are clearly delineated is becoming essential. Critically, such an account would describe congenital amusia in those terms that are commonly used to account for how musical listening ability typically develops. Further, it would be based on the results of investigations using ecologically valid stimuli and methods. In a series of four experiments, this thesis seeks to contribute towards such an account. Firstly, using behavioural methods, the state of statistical learning processes known to be necessary for the internalisation of musical regularities in typical individuals is examined. Secondly, the thesis examines the state of musical anticipatory mechanisms, a corollary of such learning, which has been shown to play a critical role in the ability to recognize and discriminate melodies. Next, using electroencephalography recordings, the neural basis of abnormal melodic pitch processing in congenital amusia is studied, while in the final chapter, a social science technique is used to investigate the extent to which amusics show normal appreciation of music in everyday life. By combining findings from current and previous studies, this thesis will contribute towards a comprehensive description of congenital amusia based on findings from a number of different levels of inquiry.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Congenital amusia, Music cognition. Statistical learning, Musical expectation. EEG

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



August 2012

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

26 Apr 2013 15:13

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:18


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