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Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Brain Defect Found in Tone-Deaf People

A missing brain circuit may explain why some people can’t keep a tune.

  • August 18, 2009

Tone-deaf people–those who can’t hold a tune–appear to be missing a specific neural circuit, according to research published today in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers used a variation of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging to compare neural circuits–specifically those between the right temporal and frontal lobes–in the brains of people who are tone-deaf and those who are not.

According to a press release from the Society for Neuroscience, which published the research,

This region, a neural “highway” called the arcuate fasciculus, is known to be involved in linking music and language perception with vocal production.The arcuate fasciculus was smaller in volume and had a lower fiber count in the tone-deaf individuals. More notably, the superior branch of the arcuate fasciculus in the right hemisphere could not be detected in the tone-deaf individuals. The researchers speculated that this could mean the branch is missing entirely, or is so abnormally deformed that it appears invisible to even the most advanced neuroimaging methods.

Hear more about neuroscience at EmTech MIT 2017.

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