Congenital amusia in its most common form is a disorder characterized by a musical pitch processing deficit. Although pitch is involved in conveying emotion in music, the implications for pitch deficits on musical emotion judgements is still under debate. Relatedly, both limited and spared musical emotion recognition was reported in amusia in conditions where emotion cues were not determined by musical mode or dissonance. Additionally, assumed links between musical abilities and visuo-spatial attention processes need further investigation in congenital amusics. Hence, we here test to what extent musical emotions can influence attentional performance. Fifteen congenital amusic adults and fifteen healthy controls matched for age and education were assessed in three attentional conditions: executive control, alerting, and orienting while music expressing either joy, tenderness, sadness, or tension was presented. Visual target detection was in the normal range for both accuracy and response times in the amusic relative to the control participants. Moreover, in both groups, music exposure produced facilitating effects on selective attention that appeared to be driven by the arousal dimension of musical emotional content, with faster correct target detection during joyful compared to sad music. These findings corroborate the idea that pitch processing deficits related to congenital amusia do not impede other cognitive domains, particularly visual attention. Furthermore, our study uncovers an intact influence of music and its emotional content on the attentional abilities of amusic individuals. The results highlight the domain-selectivity of the pitch disorder in congenital amusia, which largely spares the development of visual attention and affective systems.
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DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2020.566841
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