In his book Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks discusses a case involving a woman named Rachel Y. who lost the ability to process harmony in a car accident. He then explains how this lead to simultanagnosia. He terms this loss of harmony "dysharmonia."

Is dysharmonia a recognized medical condition? My google fu didn't yield anything besides his book. If it is legit, are there any regions of the brain that when damaged induce dysharmonia?

Click here to read the case.

  • As you know, the standard on this site is that questions must be based on notable claims, not solely on your own curiosity. Is anyone claiming that "dysharmonia" is, or is not, a "recognized" condition (whatever that means)? Sacks does not seem to be making this claim. – Nate Eldredge Aug 12 '15 at 19:15
  • Are you saying I am misinterpreting what he is saying? Is he then just using this term casually in a sort of descriptive manner to characterize the patients ailment? – Stan Shunpike Aug 12 '15 at 21:09

Dysharmonia is not a recognized medical condition, which does not mean that it is not an actual, or real condition. To be a recognized medical condition, there must be more than 1 case report. In medicine, case reports are published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Pubmed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) is an indexed compendium of mostly, if not all, peer-reviewed journals and does not bring up any results for dysharmonia. With regard to this case, the person previously had perfect pitch, which is itself rare, and lost a set of musical abilities from the accident. Most individuals who are not highly trained musicians will not notice the loss of musical ability from such an accident if they did not know they had such ability in the first place, which makes it more difficult to have enough individuals to study. In addition, she lost perfect pitch AND the ability to hear in one ear, either of which could have caused the dysharmonia, so it is not clear that dysharmonia is the underlying disorder. There are potentially many different areas of damage that could have caused this. Eg, there are specific areas of brain involved with pitch and with other musical activities. This page goes over some of them: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/jf06/alacarte.asp

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. Particularly (a) that there must be more than one case report, and (b) that there isn't more than one case report. – Oddthinking Aug 12 '15 at 7:03
  • Medicine is a science and diseases are named/created/identified based on a preponderance of evidence that is accumulated over the span of decades or longer, just like all other sciences. I cannot give a reference to support that there must be more than 1 case report. In any field, if there was a single description of something by 1 person in the entire world, it is not enough for it to become accepted, there must be other corroborating or discorroborating evidence and larger studies. – user2144412 Aug 12 '15 at 16:56
  • Be that as it may, I think Skeptics holds all answers to that standard if I understand their policies correctly. Therefore, an answer that cannot back its claims up with evidence and citations is not permitted. In addition, a question that cannot be answered in a way that can be backed up is also not permitted. It is a criteria they place on discourse here and is part of this particular SE's culture. – Stan Shunpike Aug 13 '15 at 7:38
  • I don't have 50 reputation so I can't comment above, but now that I understand something of the culture and how things work here, I do think you are misunderstanding, either Oliver Sacks or medicine. He has written what is called a case report, which is a description of a medical phenomenon with as much detail as possible, with duel purposes of giving credence and providing a source for future researchers and doctors to use as a starting point in diagnosis or research. He makes no claims and himself gives several alternative hypotheses for the diagnosis, which is normal in case reports. – user2144412 Aug 16 '15 at 15:50

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