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Combination of spectral and binaurally created harmonics in a common central pitch processor

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date04/2011
JournalJournal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Journal number2
Volume12
Number of pages8
Pages253-260
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

A fundamental attribute of human hearing is the ability to extract a residue pitch from harmonic complex sounds such as those produced by musical instruments and the human voice. However, the neural mechanisms that underlie this processing are unclear, as are the locations of these mechanisms in the auditory pathway. The ability to extract a residue pitch corresponding to the fundamental frequency from individual harmonics, even when the fundamental component is absent, has been demonstrated separately for conventional pitches and for Huggins pitch (HP), a stimulus without monaural pitch information. HP is created by presenting the same wideband noise to both ears, except for a narrowband frequency region where the noise is decorrelated across the two ears. The present study investigated whether residue pitch can be derived by combining a component derived solely from binaural interaction (HP) with a spectral component for which no binaural processing is required. Fifteen listeners indicated which of two sequentially presented sounds was higher in pitch. Each sound consisted of two "harmonics," which independently could be either a spectral or a HP component. Component frequencies were chosen such that the relative pitch judgement revealed whether a residue pitch was heard or not. The results showed that listeners were equally likely to perceive a residue pitch when one component was dichotic and the other was spectral as when the components were both spectral or both dichotic. This suggests that there exists a single mechanism for the derivation of residue pitch from binaurally created components and from spectral components, and that this mechanism operates at or after the level of the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (brainstem) or the inferior colliculus (midbrain), which receive inputs from the medial superior olive where temporal information from the two ears is first combined.