Autism and Pitch Processing: A Precursor for Savant Musical Ability?
Pamela Heaton, Beate Hermelin, Linda Pring


Musically naive autistic children were compared with musically naive mental age-matched control subjects for their ability to identify and remember single-note frequencies or speech sounds. As an analogy to testing for absolute pitch, subjects were asked after two different time intervals to point out animal pictures previously paired with these stimuli. The results showed that although both groups identified and recalled speech sounds equally well, those with autism demonstrated a superior ability for single-note identification over both time intervals. The findings are discussed in terms of an enhanced capacity, characteristic of autistic persons, to process and retain isolated, context-independent elements of stimulus arrays.

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