Impaired socio-emotional processing in a developmental music disorder

César F. Lima*, Olivia Brancatisano, Amy Fancourt, Daniel Müllensiefen, Sophie K. Scott, Jason D. Warren, Lauren Stewart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Some individuals show a congenital deficit for music processing despite normal peripheral auditory processing, cognitive functioning, and music exposure. This condition, termed congenital amusia, is typically approached regarding its profile of musical and pitch difficulties. Here, we examine whether amusia also affects socio-emotional processing, probing auditory and visual domains. Thirteen adults with amusia and 11 controls completed two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants judged emotions in emotional speech prosody, nonverbal vocalizations (e.g., crying), and (silent) facial expressions. Target emotions were: amusement, anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, relief, and sadness. Compared to controls, amusics were impaired for all stimulus types, and the magnitude of their impairment was similar for auditory and visual emotions. In Experiment 2, participants listened to spontaneous and posed laughs, and either inferred the authenticity of the speaker's state, or judged how much laughs were contagious. Amusics showed decreased sensitivity to laughter authenticity, but normal contagion responses. Across the experiments, mixed-effects models revealed that the acoustic features of vocal signals predicted socio-emotional evaluations in both groups, but the profile of predictive acoustic features was different in amusia. These findings suggest that a developmental music disorder can affect socio-emotional cognition in subtle ways, an impairment not restricted to auditory information.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34911
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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