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Cracking the Pitch Code in Music and Language: Insights from Congenital Amusia and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Total Cost €


EC-Contrib. €






Project "CAASD" data sheet

The following table provides information about the project.


Organization address
postcode: RG6 6AH

contact info
title: n.a.
name: n.a.
surname: n.a.
function: n.a.
email: n.a.
telephone: n.a.
fax: n.a.

 Coordinator Country United Kingdom [UK]
 Project website
 Total cost 1˙488˙814 €
 EC max contribution 1˙488˙814 € (100%)
 Programme 1. H2020-EU.1.1. (EXCELLENT SCIENCE - European Research Council (ERC))
 Code Call ERC-2015-STG
 Funding Scheme ERC-STG
 Starting year 2016
 Duration (year-month-day) from 2016-12-01   to  2021-11-30


Take a look of project's partnership.

# participants  country  role  EC contrib. [€] 
1    THE UNIVERSITY OF READING UK (READING) coordinator 1˙431˙754.00


 Project objective

Music and language share similar properties and are processed in overlapping brain regions. As a common information-bearing element in music and language, pitch plays an essential role in encoding musical melodies, signifying linguistic functions, and conveying emotions through music and speech. However, two distinct neurodevelopmental disorders, congenital amusia (CA) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), affecting millions of people in Europe and worldwide, may selectively impair individuals’ ability to process musical, linguistic, and emotional pitch. To date, it remains unclear why individuals with CA and ASD exhibit significant differences in music, speech, and emotion processing.

Under our Delicate Form-Function Balance Hypothesis, we will conduct a series of behavioural and neurophysiological experiments to test the central hypothesis that normal musical, linguistic, and emotional functioning requires a delicate balance in the encoding and decoding of form and function in musical, speech, and emotional communication, with musical communication centred on form and linguistic and emotional communication focused on function. Most critically, we hypothesize that the differences in music, speech, and emotional processing in CA and ASD are rooted not only in pitch and cognitive abilities, but also in the balance between form and function for each domain.

Addressing three specific aims regarding the impacts of cognitive processing styles, pitch processing skills, and language background (tone vs. non-tonal) on the behavioural and neurophysiological characteristics of music, language, and emotion processing in CA and ASD, this research will not only help reveal the underlying mechanisms of the two defining aspects of human cognition, music and language, but also form a laboratory for testing key hypotheses about the bio-behavioural manifestations of human neurodevelopmental disorders in music and language processing.


year authors and title journal last update
List of publications.
2019 Alex Bacon, C. Philip Beaman, Fang Liu
An Exploratory Study of Imagining Sounds and “Hearing” Music in Autism
published pages: , ISSN: 0162-3257, DOI: 10.1007/s10803-019-04346-w
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 2020-01-29
2019 Linshu Zhou, Fang Liu, Jun Jiang, Cunmei Jiang
Impaired emotional processing of chords in congenital amusia: Electrophysiological and behavioral evidence
published pages: 103577, ISSN: 0278-2626, DOI: 10.1016/j.bandc.2019.06.001
Brain and Cognition 135 2019-09-02
2019 Linshu Zhou, Fang Liu, Jun Jiang, Hanyuan Jiang, Cunmei Jiang
Abnormal neural responses to harmonic syntactic structures in congenital amusia
published pages: e13394, ISSN: 0048-5772, DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13394
Psychophysiology 2019-09-02
2019 Jun Jiang, Fang Liu, Linshu Zhou, Cunmei Jiang
The neural basis for understanding imitation-induced musical meaning: The role of the human mirror system
published pages: 362-369, ISSN: 0166-4328, DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.11.020
Behavioural Brain Research 359 2019-09-02
2017 Linshu Zhou, Fang Liu, Xiaoyi Jing, Cunmei Jiang
Neural differences between the processing of musical meaning conveyed by direction of pitch change and natural music in congenital amusia
published pages: 29-38, ISSN: 0028-3932, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.12.024
Neuropsychologia 96 2019-06-19
2017 Cunmei Jiang, Fang Liu, Patrick C. M. Wong
Sensitivity to musical emotion is influenced by tonal structure in congenital amusia
published pages: , ISSN: 2045-2322, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08005-x
Scientific Reports 7/1 2019-06-19
2018 Lijun Sun, Fang Liu, Linshu Zhou, Cunmei Jiang
Musical training modulates the early but not the late stage of rhythmic syntactic processing
published pages: e12983, ISSN: 0048-5772, DOI: 10.1111/psyp.12983
Psychophysiology 55/2 2019-06-19

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