Music Perception
Absolute Pitch in Williams Syndrome
Howard M. Lenhoff, Olegario Perales, Gregory Hickok


Absolute pitch is reported to occur in 1 out of 10,000 persons, usually those trained in music before age 6. We demonstrate that the five individuals we tested, who have Williams syndrome, a condition caused by a microdeletion of about 20 genes in the q11.23 region of one of their two chromosomes number seven, possess near ceiling levels of absolute pitch despite their limited cognitive abilities. With these individuals, we also describe our preliminary findings on relative pitch, transposition, and retention. We discuss the possibilities that (1) the incidence of absolute pitch among individuals with Williams syndrome is higher than that found in the general population and (2) the normal early childhood critical period of absolute pitch acquisition may be extended in individuals with Williams syndrome.

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