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Letter: Tone deafness

20 May 2006

Mary King’s claims that genuine tone deafness is encounterd only in people with brain damage can hardly have been music to Emily Bearn’s ears (Lost in La La Lan, May 13).

She may, therefore, be interested to hear that up to 4% of the popoulation suffer from amusia, a lifelong inability to hear changes in pitch despite no associated brain injury. Researchers suspect a subtle anomaly in the brain’s development, which affects musical listening but leaves other faculties intact: Che Guevara, Rosevelt and Milton Freedman are all thought to have been tonally afflicted.

An online test is at

Dr Lauren Stewart (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)