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Absolute Pitch: Genetics

  1. Peter K Gregersen

Published Online: 18 OCT 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005991.pub2



How to Cite

Gregersen, P. K. 2013. Absolute Pitch: Genetics. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, New York, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 18 OCT 2013


Absolute pitch (AP) is a cognitive trait characterised by the ability to identify or name the pitch of a musical note or ambient sound without the use of a reference pitch. It is rare in the general population, and relatively uncommon even in musicians. AP displays familial aggregation and has recently been shown to be strongly associated with synaesthesia. Genetic linkage analysis has identified regions on several chromosomes that contain genes involved in both AP and synaesthesia.

Key Concepts:

  • Absolute pitch is an example of a discrete and easily measurable cognitive trait that has a strong genetic component.

  • Absolute pitch ability is not restricted to musicians.

  • Absolute pitch is associated with other distinctive cognitive traits such as synaesthesia.

  • The genes for absolute pitch are likely to be involved in brain development and cortical connectivity.

  • The elucidation of the genetic basis for absolute pitch will provide insight into general aspects of brain development and biology.


  • music;
  • perception;
  • absolute pitch;
  • synaesthesia;
  • autism