Autism-Related Language, Personality, and Cognition in People with Absolute Pitch: Results of a Preliminary Study
- 719 Downloads
Reports of a relatively high prevalence of absolute pitch (AP) in autistic disorder suggest that AP is associated with some of the distinctive cognitive and social characteristics seen in autism spectrum disorders. Accordingly we examined cognition, personality, social behavior, and language in 13 musicians with strictly defined AP (APS) and 33 musician controls (MC) without AP using standardized interviews and tests previously applied to identify the broad autism phenotype seen in the relatives of autistic probands. These included the Pragmatic Rating Scale (PRS) (social aspects of language) the Personality Assessment Schedule (PAS) (rigidity, aloofness, anxiety/worry, hypersensitivity), and WAIS performance subtests (PIQ). On the basis of their behavior in the interviews, subjects were classified as socially eccentric, somewhat eccentric, or not eccentric. Forty-six percent of the APS, but only 15% of the MC, were classified as socially eccentric (p < .03). APS but not MC showed higher scores on block design than on the other PIQ tests (p < .06), a PIQ pattern seen in autism spectrum disorders. Although APS and MC did not differ significantly on other measures it is of note that APS mean scores on the PRS and PAS (5.69, 4.92) were almost twice as high as those for the MC (3.03, 2.45). Thus, musicians with AP show some of the personality, language, and cognitive features associated with autism. Piecemeal information processing, of which AP is an extreme and rare example, is characteristic of autism and may be associated as well with subclinical variants in language and behavior. We speculate that the gene or genes that underlie AP may be among the genes that contribute to autism.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Frith, U. (1989). Autism: Explaining the enigma. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Gregersen, P. K., & Kumar, S. (1996). The genetics of perfect pitch. American Journal of Human Genetics, (Suppl.) 59, A179.Google Scholar
- Heaton, P., Hermelin, B., & Pring, L. (1998). Autism and pitch processing: A precursor for savant musical ability? Music Perception, 15, 291–305.Google Scholar
- Klein, M., Coles, M. G. H., & Donchin, E. (1984). People with absolute pitch process tones without producing a P300. Science, 233, 1306–1309.Google Scholar
- Miller, L. K. (1989). Musical savants. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Piven, P., Palmer, P., Landa, R., Santangelo, S., Jacobi, D., & Childress, D. (1997). Personality and language characteristics in parents from multiple incidence autism families. American Journal of Medical Genetics (Neuropsychiatric Genetics), 74, 398–411.Google Scholar
- Rimland, B., & Fein, D. (1988). Special talents of autistic savants. In L. K. Obler & D. Fein (Eds.), The exceptional brain. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Takeuchi, A. H., & Hulse, S. H. (1993). Absolute pitch. Psychological Bulletion, 113, 345–361.Google Scholar
- Ward, W. D. (1999). Absolute pitch. In D. Deutsch (Ed.), The psychology of music, San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Zatorre, R. J., Perry, D. W., Beckett, C. A., Westbury, C. F., & Evans, A. C. (1998). Functional anatomy of musical processing in listeners with absolute pitch and relative pitch. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95, 3172–3177.Google Scholar