“Only 1 in 10,000 people have absolute or ‘perfect’ pitch,” writes Douglas Main at Monday’s (1/6) Popular Science. “This unusual ability is acquired early in life … and there are no records of adults acquiring the ability. But a new study shows that people who took a drug normally used as a mood-stabilizer became significantly better at identifying the pitch of sounds, after two weeks of training, compared to those who took a placebo. The drug, known as valproic acid or Valproate, ‘restores the plasticity of the brain to a juvenile state,’ Harvard researcher and study co-author Takao Hensch told NPR. It’s the first time that a drug has ever been shown to help people become better at identifying pitch, he said. The study was conducted on 24 young men with little musical training, half of whom took the drug and half of whom took a placebo. … ‘I think we are getting closer to a day when this drug could be used for learning new languages,’ … Hensch said. ‘But … critical periods have evolved for a reason, and it is a process that one probably would not want to tamper with carelessly.’ ”

Posted January 8, 2014