Periodicity and frequency coding in human auditory cortex

Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;24(12):3601-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.05240.x.


Understanding the neural coding of pitch and frequency is fundamental to the understanding of speech comprehension, music perception and the segregation of concurrent sound sources. Neuroimaging has made important contributions to defining the pattern of frequency sensitivity in humans. However, the precise way in which pitch sensitivity relates to these frequency-dependent regions remains unclear. Single-frequency tones also cannot be used to test this hypothesis as their pitch always equals their frequency. Here, temporal pitch (periodicity) and frequency coding were dissociated using stimuli that were bandpassed in different frequency spectra (centre frequencies 800 and 4500 Hz), yet were matched in their pitch characteristics. Cortical responses to both pitch-evoking stimuli typically occurred within a region that was also responsive to low frequencies. Its location extended across both primary and nonprimary auditory cortex. An additional control experiment demonstrated that this pitch-related effect was not simply caused by the generation of combination tones. Our findings support recent neurophysiological evidence for a cortical representation of pitch at the lateral border of the primary auditory cortex, while revealing new evidence that additional auditory fields are also likely to play a role in pitch coding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Auditory Cortex / blood supply
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Noise
  • Periodicity*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*