Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences - Research Publications

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    Spatial Representations Are Specific to Different Domains of Knowledge
    Beecham, R ; Reeve, RA ; Wilson, SJ ; Antonietti, A (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-05-20)
    There is evidence that many abstract concepts are represented cognitively in a spatial format. However, it is unknown whether similar spatial processes are employed in different knowledge domains, or whether individuals exhibit similar spatial profiles within and across domains. This research investigated similarities in spatial representation in two knowledge domains--mathematics and music. Sixty-one adults completed analogous number magnitude and pitch discrimination tasks: the Spatial-Numerical Association of Response Codes and Spatial-Musical Association of Response Codes tasks. Subgroups of individuals with different response patterns were identified through cluster analyses. For both the mathematical and musical tasks, approximately half of the participants showed the expected spatial judgment effect when explicitly cued to focus on the spatial properties of the stimuli. Despite this, performances on the two tasks were largely independent. Consistent with previous research, the study provides evidence for the spatial representation of number and pitch in the majority of individuals. However, there was little evidence to support the claim that the same spatial representation processes underpin mathematical and musical judgments.
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    The Neurocognitive Components of Pitch Processing: Insights from Absolute Pitch
    Wilson, SJ ; Lusher, D ; Wan, CY ; Dudgeon, P ; Reutens, DC (OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2009-03)
    The natural variability of pitch naming ability in the population (known as absolute pitch or AP) provides an ideal method for investigating individual differences in pitch processing and auditory knowledge formation and representation. We have demonstrated the involvement of different cognitive processes in AP ability that reflects varying skill expertise in the presence of similar early age of onset of music tuition. These processes were related to different regions of brain activity, including those involved in pitch working memory (right prefrontal cortex) and the long-term representation of pitch (superior temporal gyrus). They reflected expertise through the use of context dependent pitch cues and the level of automaticity of pitch naming. They impart functional significance to structural asymmetry differences in the planum temporale of musicians and establish a neurobiological basis for an AP template. More generally, they indicate variability of knowledge representation in the presence of environmental fostering of early cognitive development that translates to differences in cognitive ability.