Revisiting place and temporal theories of pitch

Acoust Sci Technol. 2013;34(6):388-396. doi: 10.1250/ast.34.388.


The nature of pitch and its neural coding have been studied for over a century. A popular debate has revolved around the question of whether pitch is coded via "place" cues in the cochlea, or via timing cues in the auditory nerve. In the most recent incarnation of this debate, the role of temporal fine structure has been emphasized in conveying important pitch and speech information, particularly because the lack of temporal fine structure coding in cochlear implants might explain some of the difficulties faced by cochlear implant users in perceiving music and pitch contours in speech. In addition, some studies have postulated that hearing-impaired listeners may have a specific deficit related to processing temporal fine structure. This article reviews some of the recent literature surrounding the debate, and argues that much of the recent evidence suggesting the importance of temporal fine structure processing can also be accounted for using spectral (place) or temporal-envelope cues.

Keywords: Auditory perception; Hearing; Pitch; Temporal fine structure.