Preserved appreciation of aesthetic elements of speech and music prosody in an amusic individual: A holistic approach

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Abstract

We present a follow-up study on the case of a Greek amusic adult, B.Z., whose impaired performance on scale, contour, interval, and meter was reported by Paraskevopoulos, Tsapkini, and Peretz in 2010, employing a culturally-tailored version of the Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia. In the present study, we administered a novel set of perceptual judgement tasks designed to investigate the ability to appreciate holistic prosodic aspects of ‘expressiveness’ and emotion in phrase length music and speech stimuli. Our results show that, although diagnosed as a congenital amusic, B.Z. scored as well as healthy controls (N = 24) on judging ‘expressiveness’ and emotional prosody in both speech and music stimuli. These findings suggest that the ability to make perceptual judgements about such prosodic qualities may be preserved in individuals who demonstrate difficulties perceiving basic musical features such as melody or rhythm. B.Z.’s case yields new insights into amusia and the processing of speech and music prosody through a holistic approach. The employment of novel stimuli with relatively fewer non-naturalistic manipulations, as developed for this study, may be a useful tool for revealing unexplored aspects of music and speech cognition and offer the possibility to further the investigation of the perception of acoustic streams in more authentic auditory conditions.

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