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Congenital amusia and other stories . . .

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 28 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7849

Why are some combinations of musical notes perceived by Western listeners as pleasant and others not? Some attribute it to the phenomenon of “beating,” where dissonance increases the interference between frequency components in the ear. Others say that consonant chords contain harmonically related frequencies. On testing these two theories in people with congenital amusia (a neurogenetic disorder that causes abnormal pitch perception), researchers found that harmonicity, rather than beating, underlies the perception of consonance (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1207989109).

Vitiligo—characterised by autoimmune melanocyte destruction—seems to protect against skin cancers, despite fairer skinned people having a higher risk of these cancers. Researchers contacted patients with vitiligo aged 50 or older and presenting to one dermatology clinic over 15 years. Half of the 2635 surveys were completed, and all skin cancers reported throughout each patient’s life were confirmed by pathology reports. Patients with vitiligo had a threefold lower probability of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin …

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