Neurocognitive and neurophysiological fundamentals of absolute pitch ability


The term „absolute pitch“ refers to the rare ability (< 1%), to name a (musical) pitch without using a reference tone (e.g. a tuning pitch) and independend of its source (e.g. the musical instrument). In contrary to people with relative pitch ability, which is the usual, those people are easily capable to not only differentiate between tones, but also categorize them. Interestingly, the equivalent ability in the visual domain, i.e. to categorize and name colours (visual frequencies), seems to be very common for all of us. Furthermore previous neurscientific studies have recently identified various differences in anatomy and connectivity of the brain in people with absolute pitch compared to relative pitch possessors. Nevertheless a lot of open questions remain in this research field.



  • examine and characterise neurocognitive differences between absolut and relative pitch possessors
  • detailed exploration of imprecisions regarding the absolute pitch ability and the internal reference template of a person
  • identifiying influences on the development and accuracy of absolute pitch
  • explain relationships between absolute pitch ability and mechanisms in the brain


Within our studies we use psychometric questionaires and cognitive tests (e.g. intelligence tests, neuropsychological diagnostic), auditive and visual reaction time paradigms, a test  for measurement of absolute pitch and electroenzephalography (EEG, ERP).

Electroenzephalography (EEG)

Electroenzephalography (EEG) is a non-invasive, clinical prooved, neuroscientific method without risks. With this methode, voltage differences between different electrodes, placed on the sculp, are measured. The software sLORETA (standardized Low Resolution Brain Electromagnetic Tomography,, Pascual-Marqui, 2002) is used to estimate the intracortical sources of the obtained signals on the sculp. Therefore the three-dimensional distribution of the electrically active, neuronal generators inside the brain is calculated and a value for each voxel and frequency band, in the standardized unit of current density  (A/cm²), is obtained. On this basis we finally calculate event related potentials, intracortical connectivity and (graphtheoretical) networks of the brain within MATLAB, Python and R.


  • This project is still in the data acquisition and analysis phase.

Contact persons


Participants wanted! For this project we are currently searching for german-speaking participants between 18 and 35 years of age – absolute and relative pitch musicians! If you are interested in our studies and especially if you have or might have absolute pitch ability please contact the responsible person (on the right) or participate directly in the following online-survey:

Project on absolute and relative pitch

Last modified: 2017-03-30

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