The study employed a neuroimaging technique developed by Dr. Alan Evans and colleagues in the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre at the MNI that measures the thickness of grey matter (or cortex) using MRI brain scans. All amusics had normal intellectual, memory and language skills, but were impaired compared to normal controls on a standardized battery of musical tests, the MBEA, used to diagnose congenital amusia. The MBEA involves six tests including melodic, rhythmic, metric and recognition memory tests. In order to better understand the nature of brain anatomical differences, the study correlated musical performance with cortical thickness measures. The lower the score on the MBEA the thicker the cortex in musically-relevant regions of the brain.
A uniquely human capability that predates language, music is a fundamental aspect of life, providing a unique window into brain function. Listening to and creating music involves many different regions of the brain, the auditory system, the visual system, the motor system, as well as memory and emotion etc making music an excellent tool for gaining insight into all of these systems and studying the human brain, adds Dr. Hyde.
Cortical thickness differences in the right inferior frontal gyrus and right auditory cortex of amusic brains relative to controls may be due to abnormal neuronal migration or atypical cell pruning during development. Abnormal migration occurs when nerve cells do not reach their target or proper location in the brain and therefore do not make the right connections. Cell pruning is the process by which frequently-used nerve cells and connections (synapses) are strengthened while pathways
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Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital