Study Identifies Part of Brain Responsible for Tone Deafness
September 29, 2006
For Dr. Lee Bartel – Music and the Brain 2122H
A Summary, Review and Response
A new study has discovered that people suffering from tone-deafness have brains that are lacking in white matter. Tone-deafness is a disability that prevents normal-functioning individuals from developing basic musical skills. MRI data from a group of tone-deaf people were compared with images from people with normal musical ability. The results showed that there was a reduction in white matter concentration in the right inferior frontal gyrus or amusic individuals. The study used a technology called “voxel-based morphometry” which is a procedure that allows one to search throughout the entire brain for structural differences in terms of brain tissue concentration. The participants in the study were considered tone-deaf on two criteria: difficulty recognizing familiar tunes without lyrics and the inability to detect when they are singing out of tune.
This short article was very informative and interesting. As I stated in a previous blog entry, I had never come into contact with a tone-deaf student until this year. I had always assumed that tone-deafness was something that was all in somebody’s “head” and that they could overcome it if they really tried. It seems as though the research reveals that it is indeed a real problem with the white matter of the brain. This article was a great general introduction to the science behind tone-deafness and I feel the need to do a little more research on the finding and maybe even seek out the actual study that was performed. As someone who is passionate about music and music education, it breaks my heart that some people are unable to hear and understand the world’s music and are unable to make music themselves. I think that my poor student that is struggling with the clarinet would be pleased to know that her struggles are caused by a real problem and that it is not her fault that she has troubles with music class.