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Blame the brain for lack of rhythm

5:31pm, August 10, 2004

From New Orleans, at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience

At the other end of the musical talent scale from those with perfect pitch are people with dysmusia, a condition marked by difficulty learning to play music or recognizing melodies. It's essentially a musical version of dyslexia, the well-recognized reading disability.

On rare occasions, a person suffering a stroke or other forms of brain trauma will develop dysmusia, says Julie Ayotte of the University of Montreal. As she and her colleague Isabelle Peretz studied a few of these brain-damaged individuals, they began to wonder how frequently dysmusia occurs among healthy people. A search of scientific literature yielded just two reports of people born with dysmusia, notes Ayotte.

Through ads in local newspapers, the investigators recruited several dozen men and women who called themselves "tone deaf." After narrowing the group to 12 individuals who had actually tried to pursue musical

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