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The mechanism of speech processing in congenital amusia: Evidence from Mandarin speakers

Liu, F; Jiang, C; Thompson, WF; Xu, Y; Yang, Y; Stewart, L; (2012) The mechanism of speech processing in congenital amusia: Evidence from Mandarin speakers. PLoS ONE , 7 (2) , Article e30374. 10.1371/journal.pone.0030374. Green open access

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Abstract

Congenital amusia is a neuro-developmental disorder of pitch perception that causes severe problems with music processing but only subtle difficulties in speech processing. This study investigated speech processing in a group of Mandarin speakers with congenital amusia. Thirteen Mandarin amusics and thirteen matched controls participated in a set of tone and intonation perception tasks and two pitch threshold tasks. Compared with controls, amusics showed impaired performance on word discrimination in natural speech and their gliding tone analogs. They also performed worse than controls on discriminating gliding tone sequences derived from statements and questions, and showed elevated thresholds for pitch change detection and pitch direction discrimination. However, they performed as well as controls on word identification, and on statement-question identification and discrimination in natural speech. Overall, tasks that involved multiple acoustic cues to communicative meaning were not impacted by amusia. Only when the tasks relied mainly on pitch sensitivity did amusics show impaired performance compared to controls. These findings help explain why amusia only affects speech processing in subtle ways. Further studies on a larger sample of Mandarin amusics and on amusics of other language backgrounds are needed to consolidate these results.

Type: Article
Title: The mechanism of speech processing in congenital amusia: Evidence from Mandarin speakers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030374
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0030374
Language: English
Additional information: © 2012 Liu et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number PTA-026-27-2480-A to FL). The authors would also like to thank Professor Patrick Suppes (Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University) for his financial support to FL. No additional external funding was received for this study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1341005
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