Experience-dependent neural representation of dynamic pitch in the brainstem

Neuroreport. 2009 Mar 4;20(4):408-13. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e3283263000.


Brainstem frequency-following responses were recorded from Chinese and English participants in response to an iterated rippled noise homologue of Mandarin Tone 2 (T2) and linear and inverted curvilinear variants. Pitch-tracking accuracy and pitch strength analyses showed advantages for the Chinese group over the English in response to T2 only. Pitch strength was larger for the Chinese group in rapidly changing sections of T2 compared with corresponding sections of a linear ramp. We conclude that experience-dependent neural plasticity at subcortical levels of representation is highly sensitive to specific features of pitch patterns in one's native language. Such experience-dependent effects suggest that subcortical sensory encoding interacts with cognitive processing in the cerebral cortex to shape the perceptual system's response to pitch patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Stem / physiology*
  • Electrodes
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Psycholinguistics*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Young Adult