Experience-induced malleability in neural encoding of pitch, timbre, and timing

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Jul;1169:543-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04549.x.


Speech and music are highly complex signals that have many shared acoustic features. Pitch, Timbre, and Timing can be used as overarching perceptual categories for describing these shared properties. The acoustic cues contributing to these percepts also have distinct subcortical representations which can be selectively enhanced or degraded in different populations. Musically trained subjects are found to have enhanced subcortical representations of pitch, timbre, and timing. The effects of musical experience on subcortical auditory processing are pervasive and extend beyond music to the domains of language and emotion. The sensory malleability of the neural encoding of pitch, timbre, and timing can be affected by lifelong experience and short-term training. This conceptual framework and supporting data can be applied to consider sensory learning of speech and music through a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex / physiology
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cochlear Implants
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Music*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*