Thursday, August 30, 2007

Perfect pitch: you got it or you don't

This story caught my eye - so I am giving you a few details because a Scientific American story reports that you don't have to be Mozart to correctly identify a tone as A-sharp or D-flat. In fact, says a new report, perfect pitch may be genetic.

Says reporter Nikhil Swaminathan, "In the midst of recruiting subjects for a genetic study on perfect (absolute) pitch—the ability to discern a note from nearly any sort of sound without a reference tone—scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, discovered several interesting patterns among people who have the skill.

"Among the findings of the study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA : 'Either you've got it or you don't," says senior report author Jane Gitschier, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at U.C.S.F. She says that data collected from more than 2,000 people aged eight to 70 years old during the study indicates that there is likely a genetic basis to perfect pitch—one she believes is activated by early music training "Absolute pitch almost certainly requires exposure to music at a young age," Gitschier notes. "You need to have some idea of the nomenclature.'"