Perfect pitch could be developed with help of drug, study says

Perfect pitch could be developed with help of drug, study says


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SALT LAKE CITY — For 99.9 percent of the world’s population who missed their brief window of opportunity to develop perfect pitch, they may be able to do so later in life.

By taking a pill containing valproate — a histone-deacetylase inhibitor that is commonly used as an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer — and undergoing pitch training, adult men were able to develop perfect pitch in a study by professors from Harvard, Sorbonne and King’s College.

Perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — was defined in the study as “the ability to identify or produce the pitch of a sound without a reference point.” Only 0.01 percent of individuals have the ability, according to the study published in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience.

Twenty-four adult men — classified as “musically naive” — took doses of valproate for two weeks at home and participated in an online training program for about 10 minutes a day before returning for a post-treatment assessment. Women were not included in the study due to concerns about valproate’s effects on pregnancies.

The researchers found valproate restored plasticity in critical portions of the brain for musical learning in the adult male brain.

“Importantly, this result was not due to a general change in cognitive function, but rather a specific effect on a sensory task associated with a critical-period,” researchers wrote.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof


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