Ear splitting renditions of popular songs on karaoke could be a thing of the past if the drug developed by Professor Takao Hensch gives us the ability to learn perfect pitch as he says it does.
Professor Hensch works in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University. He believed that the ability to sing or identify a specific musical note without any reference points is a learned ability. It would normally be aquired by humans in a “critical period” early on in childhood. Along with fellow scientists, he thought that if by the time you were seven years old you hadn’t been able to pick out or produce a note, then you wouldn’t have the skill as an adult.
However a new study, which Hensch has worked on, claims that a drug can give humans the ability to be pitch perfect, despite never having had the skill before. Using Valporate, which is normally used to treat epilepsy, the brain can return to a “juvenile state”, allowing it to learn skills that it would ordinarily be too old to start mastering.
In tests, Valporate was given to healthy young men who had no previous musical training. They were asked to complete a set of exercises over a period of two weeks, which would help them improve their pitch. At the same time another group were given the same tasks but instead of Valporate, were given a placebo.
The results showed that the group given Valporate had been able to learn to identify pitch”significantly better than those taking the placebo.”
Hensch was notably surprised at the results and said that there had been “no known reports of adults acquiring absolute pitch.”
The implications of this study are not limited to the learning of music but also other skills. Hensch suggests that learning a language is an obvious field where the drug could be applied.
At the moment, althought the study has been successful, more research needs to done on the neuroscience behind the drug. Hensch says there is a reason why humans have a “critical period” and there is a risk that we may erase the identity that we have as a result of how we were raised. It is vital to ensure that we don’t accidentally replace important parts of our personalities, especially not just so we can be better at karaoke!
[Image via Gizmodo]