Both the right genes and training are needed to have perfect pitch, the ability to recognize a note without any reference, Cosmos reports.
A team of York University researchers imaged the auditory cortex, called Heschl’s Gyrus, of the brains of 61 individuals, including musicians with perfect pitch, musicians without perfect pitch, and controls. As they report in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers found individual with perfect pitch had larger primary and rostral regions. These regions are linked to low-frequency and broadly-turned sounds, the researchers note.
A number of the individuals with perfect pitch didn't start musical training until their teens, which suggests to the researchers that individuals don't necessarily have to have training at a young age to develop perfect pitch. There has been, Cosmos notes, debate over whether perfect pitch is genetic or learned.
"Our findings suggest that genetics may play a more salient role for [perfect pitch] ability to emerge in neurodevelopment as opposed to a critical period alone," York's Keith Schneider and his colleagues write in their paper.