Spatial cross-correlation. A proposed mechanism for acoustic pitch perception

Biol Cybern. 1983;47(3):149-63. doi: 10.1007/BF00337005.


We propose in this paper a new class of model processes for the extraction of spectral information from the neural representation of acoustic signals in mammals. We are concerned particularly with mechanisms for detecting the phase-locked activity of auditory neurons in response to frequencies and intensities of sound associated with speech perception. Recent psychophysical tests on deaf human subjects implanted with intracochlear stimulating electrodes as an auditory prosthesis have produced results which are in conflict with the predictions of the classical place-pitch and periodicity-pitch theories. In our model, the detection of synchronicity between two phase-locked signals derived from sources spaced a finite distance apart on the basilar membrane can be used to extract spectral information from the spatiotemporal pattern of basilar membrane motion. Computer simulations of this process suggest an optimal spacing of about 0.3-0.4 of the wavelength of the frequency to be detected. This interval is consistent with a number of psychophysical, neurophysiological, and anatomical observations, including the results of high resolution frequency-mapping of the anteroventral cochlear nucleus which are presented here. One particular version of this model, invoking the binaurally sensitive cells of the medial superior olive as the critical detecting elements, has properties which are useful in accounting for certain complex binaural psychophysical observations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Basilar Membrane / physiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Periodicity
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology