A unitary model of pitch perception

J Acoust Soc Am. 1997 Sep;102(3):1811-20. doi: 10.1121/1.420088.


A model of the mechanism of residue pitch perception is revisited. It is evaluated in the context of some new empirical results, and it is proposed that the model is able to reconcile a number of differing approaches in the history of theories of pitch perception. The model consists of four sequential processing stages: peripheral frequency selectivity, within-channel half-wave rectification and low-pass filtering, within-channel periodicity extraction, and cross-channel aggregation of the output. The pitch percept is represented by the aggregated periodicity function. Using autocorrelation as the periodicity extraction method and the summary autocorrelation function (SACF) as the method for representing pitch information, it is shown that the model can simulate new experimental results that show how the quality of the pitch percept is influenced by the resolvability of the harmonic components of the stimulus complex. These include: (i) the pitch of harmonic stimuli whose components alternate in phase; (ii) the increased frequency difference limen of tones consisting of higher harmonics; and (iii) the influence of a mistuned harmonic on the pitch of the complex as a function of its harmonic number. To accommodate these paradigms, it was necessary to compare stimuli along the length of the SACF rather than relying upon the highest peak alone. These new results demonstrate that the model responds differently to complexes consisting of low and high harmonics. As a consequence, it is not necessary to postulate two separate mechanisms to explain different pitch percepts associated with resolved and unresolved harmonics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Time Factors