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Study: Mood-Stabilizing Drug May Help Some Develop Absolute Pitch

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File photo of singer Stevie Wonder.  (credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

File photo of singer Stevie Wonder. (credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, those who are tone-deaf might be able to take a pill to improve their pitch.

The National Center of Biotechnology Information is reporting that researchers from Canada, France, and the United Kingdom gave a mood-stabilizer to participants before asking them to match and recall pitches.

Those who were given valproic acid – a mood-stabilizing drug primarily used in the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder – were said to have scored higher and correctly identified more pitches than those who were given the placebo.

Valproic acid is also less commonly used in treating major depression and migraines.

For the study, 24 “healthy, right-handed, monolingual, English-speaking adult males” were used as participants. Females were avoided as researchers were unsure of the health risks involved in administering VPA to pregnant women.

Researchers gave 11 of the participants VPA, while 12 took the placebo. None of the participants have reported to receive complete musical training, and those who had partial training did not receive any during the study.

The participants were then shown a video designed to teach six pitch classes from the 12-tone Western musical system before having to identify the pitch class of the tone then scored. Those administered VPA scored five out of seven correct, while those given the placebo only scored 3.5.

“Our study is the first to show a change in absolute pitch with any kind of drug treatment,” the researchers wrote in their study.

According to the study, the optimum age to develop absolute pitch is between four and six. Examples of musicians who have absolute pitch are Mozart and Stevie Wonder.

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