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Perfect pitch common among the blind

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5:29pm, August 10, 2004

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

Stevie Wonder. Ray Charles. Jose Feliciano. Because of such legends, there's a perception that blind people make great musicians. Scientists do have some evidence from blind people that brain areas normally devoted to vision become involved in hearing or in controlling the dexterity needed to play an instrument. A new study now finds that blind musicians are more likely to have perfect pitch than sighted people are.

Perfect pitch is the ability to identify the pitch, or frequency, of a musical note without a reference note. This talent, perhaps as rare as 1 in 2,000 among the general population, seems to result from a blend of genetics and experience. People with early musical training are much more likely than others to have perfect pitch, but the skill also runs in families (SN: 11/16/96, p. 316).

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