Stuff that occurs to me

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Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

[Solved] Old neuroscience event on amusia (being unmusical) at the RSM - anyone know more?

The event was a 'Music and Medicine' student-led academic meeting at the RSM and the details are preserved in this archived copy of diary pages of February 2007 when the event took place. In fact I did hear of it through the psci-com list, I didn't find it when searching as 'amusia' wasn't mentioned in the email to the list.

Thanks to @davemack for pointing me to Prof Lauren Stewart's Goldsmith's research page, seeing info about amusia in her publications list made it clear that it was her name I should be searching for and finding the event on psci-com meant I could tie the timing down for a more productive search in the archives.

Years ago... I think it was before 2010 as I think my mum was still alive... Dad and I went to a really lovely and interesting evening event at the Royal Society of Medicine on Wimpole Street. Pretty sure that's where it was. It was a talk by someone who'd been doing research on amusia (lack of music, really struggling with pitch and melody), with a neuroscience focus. At the end the speaker and another medical person gave a short musical performance - a violin was involved I think but the memories are fading.

The talk was fascinating. The researcher showed us video clips of her research with members of a family in Ireland who were enthusiastic about music. The family included a man who was keen on music like the rest of his family but had always lacked any ability with it. He composed tunes - they were as unmusical as you'd expect but he seemed to derive a lot of pleasure from it.

People born with (congenital) amusia cannot recognise a musical tune and struggle with musical pitch but don't seem to have a problem with pitch in speech, or with prosody (rhythm and emphasis / intonation in speech). It seems to be very specific. People can also acquire amusia following a brain injury.

I don't think this was the researcher who presented (no mention of an Irish family, though I suppose it's possible my memory is incorrect!)
The Genetics of Congenital Amusia (Tone Deafness): A Family-Aggregation Study (2007)
Anyway I'd love to know who gave the presentation and when the event was. As it was probably 2009 or earlier I think the relevant page on the RSM's website has disappeared. Here are the strategies I've used to try and find out more, so they can be discounted.

Google search - restricted by year - no joy, also tried earlier years.

Royal Society of Medicine website search on the Internet Archive - I've crawled backwards through 2009 to 2007 but not found anything yet. Perhaps it was before 2007 (entirely possible) but the website hasn't been captures.

Psci-com mailing list (I thought the talk might have been advertised here, but no) - searched for amusia and music wimpole.

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