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. 2010 Feb;20(2):447-55.
doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhp113. Epub 2009 Jul 10.

Absolute Pitch--Functional Evidence of Speech-Relevant Auditory Acuity

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Free PMC article

Absolute Pitch--Functional Evidence of Speech-Relevant Auditory Acuity

Mathias S Oechslin et al. Cereb Cortex. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Absolute pitch (AP) has been shown to be associated with morphological changes and neurophysiological adaptations in the planum temporale, a cortical area involved in higher-order auditory and speech perception processes. The direct link between speech processing and AP has hitherto not been addressed. We provide first evidence that AP compared with relative pitch (RP) ability is associated with significantly different hemodynamic responses to complex speech sounds. By systematically varying the lexical and/or prosodic information of speech stimuli, we demonstrated consistent activation differences in AP musicians compared with RP musicians and nonmusicians. These differences relate to stronger activations in the posterior part of the middle temporal gyrus and weaker activations in the anterior mid-part of the superior temporal gyrus. Furthermore, this pattern is considerably modulated by the auditory acuity of AP. Our results suggest that the neural underpinnings of pitch processing expertise exercise a strong influence on propositional speech perception (sentence meaning).

Figures

Figure 1.
Figure 1.
In this figure the methodical framework is depicted. The 3 factors expertise, suprasegmental and segmental leads us to an orthogonal design that has been calculated by using a full factorial design (3-way ANOVA), provided by SPM5: expertise (AP/RP/NM) × segmental (flattened vs. nonflattened) × suprasegmental (delexicalized vs. nondelexicalized). The significant interaction expertise × suprasegmental has been further analyzed by applying a post hoc ROI analysis comparing delexicalized versus nondelexicalized conditions.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Plotted scores of the AP test (AP [n = 15, Average: 82.2%, SD: 16.2] and RP [n = 15, Avg.: 6.9%, SD: 4.2]).
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Selected results of the 3-way ANOVA (segmental × suprasegmental × expertise) On the left side, cortical views show the significant results of a full factorial design performed with SPM5: (A) the main effect expertise (STG, PT) and (B) the main effect suprasegmental (MTG, STG, ITG). On the right, mean BETA values at the sites of effect peaks (white small boxes) are plotted for all 3 groups of subjects (AP/RP/NM) and against the 4 experimental conditions: normal speech (normal), delexicalized speech (delex), flattened speech (flat) and flattened-delexicalized speech (flat_delex).
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Detailed data of ROI-analysis regarding the significant interaction suprasegmental × expertise (A) STS and MTG interaction cluster with two equivalent left-hemispheric peaks of interaction (ROI 1 [STS]: (−54, −57, 6), F = 9.28; ROI 2 (MTG): (−51, −39, −6), F = 9.28, P < 0.001, k = 5), (B) two post hoc defined ROIs according to the peaks of interaction at left STS and MTG (left hemisphere) and two corresponding mirror related ROIs (right hemisphere). The left two (C) and right two (D) plots are defined by the separately assigned two clusters of significant interaction (ROI 1: [−54, −57, 6], F = 9.28; ROI 2: [−51, −39, −6]). The upper two plots represent the mean BETA values for the collapsed delexicalized conditions (delexicalized speech and flattened-delexicalized speech) in the left (LH) and the right (RH) hemisphere respectively, and the lower two plots represent the mean BETA values for the collapsed nondelexicalized conditions (normal speech and flattened speech); asterisks indicate significant levels (*P < 0.05, **P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001) as revealed by un-/paired t-tests.

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