Research Topic

Music disorders

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This research topic is also being hosted in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience to ensure a wide range of contributions.
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This research topic is also being hosted in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience to ensure a wide range of contributions.

Humans are naturally musical. The majority is biologically endowed to recognize well-known songs, memorize new tunes, appreciate the masterworks of great composers, and emotionally respond to music. Moreover, people can easily move along to the rhythm of music and carry a tune. These abilities, mastered by musicians and non-musicians alike, are probably hard-wired. There is compelling evidence that the building blocks of the complex mechanisms underpinning music perception, performance, and musical emotions emerge early during development. Elementary musical skills are developed and perfected via mere exposure to music, dedicated training or extensive musical practice, thereby leading to the musical system characterizing the adult brain. This system is sustained by a complex cognitive and neural architecture, which has been progressively brought to light in the past decades by extensive research in the fields of Music Cognition and of the Neurosciences of music.

Despite that musical abilities are widespread, in some cases the mechanisms underlying the musical system can break down or not fully develop. This results in a variety of measurable deficits, spanning from impaired melody recognition or discrimination, singing out of tune, to moving off-beat. These deficits can emerge subsequent to brain damage or as a result of neurodevelopmental/neurogenetic disorders. A considerable amount of research has been devoted to music disorders in patients suffering from brain damage (i.e., acquired amusia) in Neurology and in Neuropsychology. More recently, particular attention has been paid to musical deficits in individuals who did not undergo a brain insult (e.g., congenital amusia or tone deafness); in this condition, the natural development of musical skills is brought to a halt, thus leading to impoverished music perception, appreciation, and/or performance. Irrespective of the etiology of music disorders, it is intriguing that the observed deficits can be particularly selective. Indeed, specific musical components (e.g., pitch production) can be malfunctioning while leaving the other functions (e.g., rhythm production) intact. These dissociations are an invaluable source of information for the understanding of music abilities, by allowing to determine which components in the healthy musical system are independent or associated to the others.

This Research Topic focuses on music disorders, as a way to shed light on the functional and neural architecture supporting the healthy musical system. We encourage researchers to submit either 1) a paper reporting new empirical findings concerning music disorders or innovative methods for the study/analysis of musical deficits, 2) a review article summarizing recent and past studies on music disorders (e.g., music agnosia, congenital amusia, poor-pitch singing, tone deafness, beat deafness, etc.) and their implications for the understanding of the musical system, or 3) a theoretical/conceptual paper that proposes a new approach to the understanding of musical deficits and/or of their functional and neural bases. The reported studies can be clinical group studies or single cases, following brain damage or neurodevelopmental disorders. The methodology can include behavioral, psychophysiology, and structural or functional neuroimaging techniques.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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