August Knoblauch and Amusia: A Nineteenth-Century Cognitive Model of Music

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Early models of human cognition can be traced to nineteenth-century investigations of brain and behavior. Influential neurologists such as Wernicke, Kussmaul, and Lichtheim constructed diagrammatic models to illustrate current theories of cognition. Language was the most commonly studied cognitive function during this time; however, investigators also studied other cognitive functions, such as music and visual processing. While a number of nineteenth-century neurologists made observations about music abilities in aphasic patients, August Knoblauch, a German physician and anatomist, was the first to propose a diagrammatic model of music (1888/1890). He described a detailed cognitive model of music processing, hypothesized the existence of nine disorders of music production and perception, and coined the term “amusia.” Knoblauch’s model is the earliest cognitive model of music and is largely unrecognized as an important part of the history of neurology, neuropsychology, and music cognition.


This article was originally published in Brain and Cognition, volume 51, issue 1, in 2003. DOI: 10.1016/S0278-2626(02)00527-4

Please contact Prof. Amy Graziano (graziano@chapman.edu) for information on how to access this paper.

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