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Shared cognitive resources for music and language: evidence from congenital amusia

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:59 authored by Yanan Sun
In both music and language, individual elements are combined to form complex and meaningful sequences. This similarity raises the question of whether there is overlap in the cognitive resources that are engaged by music and language. In this thesis, I examined whether individuals with congenital amusia also have impairments in language processing. Chapter 1 reviews evidence supporting the view that music and language share cognitive resources, and argues that the study of developmental disorders such as congenital amusia may help to clarify the nature of these shared resources. Chapter 2 outlines the experimental work of the thesis. Chapter 3 presents experiments concerning the abilities of amusic and control participants to process pitch, rhythm and musical syntax. Results suggest that amusic individuals have significant musical impairments beyond those normally assessed in the standard diagnostic tool. In Chapter 4, I investigated whether amusics’ pitch and rhythm deficits are associated with their phonological abilities. The findings suggest that individuals with severe pitch deficits have impaired phonological awareness. In Chapter 5, I examined whether amusics’ music-syntactic deficits are associated with a corresponding abnormality in language morpho-syntactic processing. As reflected in abnormal early electric brain responses, parallel syntactic deficits in music and language were observed in amusic individuals. Chapter 6 describes a source analysis on the abnormal early electric brain responses, and suggests that amusics’ music-syntactic deficits were associated with functional abnormalities in the fronto-temporal network. Chapter 7 summarises all of the results of the thesis, and provides concluding remarks. The results indicate that amusics’ musical impairments have important implications for language processing. These findings add to existing theory and data, and help to elucidate the cognitive resources that are shared by music and language.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. General introduction -- Chapter 2. outline of experimental work -- Chapter 3. Musical impairments and language processing -- Chapter 4. Pitch, rhythm and phonological awareness -- Chapter 5. Music- and language-syntactic processing : an ERP study -- Chapter 6. Source localisation of ERAN and LAN -- Chapter 7. General conclusion -- Appendix.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication. At foot of title: ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science Macquarie University.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Bill Thompson

Additional Supervisor 1

Blake Johnson


Copyright Yanan Sun 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (x, 144 pages) illustrations (some colour)

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