Are You Tone Deaf? Scientists May Have Found the Cure…

microphoneCan’t match pitch to save your life? Science may have found the cure – or, at least some initial findings that could help adults learn new skills, including music and languages, later in life.

Absolute pitch, the ability to identify and produce specific pitches without a reference point, has long been studied by musicians, psychologists, and neuroscientists. Some people believe it’s something you have to be born with – or, something that must be cultivated at an early age in order to stick, such as through early life exposure and rigorous training in music.

But now, preliminary research has shown that pitch-perfect comprehension may just be a neural tweak away. In one recent study, scientists used valproate, a chemical compound typically found in mood-stabilizing drugs, on subjects with no musical training, coached them on the basics of matching pitch, and then tested them on the material weeks later.


As it turns out, these “tone deaf” subjects scored significantly higher on the tests than those who took a placebo. Essentially, the drug re-created that critical period in brain development, allowing for new information to be absorbed just as easily as when the subjects were youngsters.

Check out the NPR interview here to find out more, or read the research findings from Frontiers.

Of course, this is just the beginning of a long road ahead. If you’re looking for a quick fix for your next karaoke night, you’re out of luck. While the findings may be interesting… we’ll stick with the traditional music training!

- , TakeLessons staff member and blogger

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Photo by JoshSemans

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