Periodic envelope or amplitude modulations (AM) with periodicities up to several thousand Hertz are characteristic for many natural sounds. Throughout the auditory pathway, signal periodicity is evident in neuronal discharges phase-locked to the envelope. In contrast to lower levels of the auditory pathway, cortical neurons do not phase-lock to periodicities above about 100 Hz. Therefore, we investigated alternative coding strategies for high envelope periodicities at the cortical level. Neuronal responses in the primary auditory cortex (AI) of gerbils to tones and AM were analysed. Two groups of stimuli were tested: (1) AM with a carrier frequency set to the unit's best frequency evoked phase-locked responses which were confined to low modulation frequencies (fms) up to about 100 Hz, and (2) AM with a spectrum completely outside the unit's frequency-response range evoked completely different responses that never showed phase-locking but a rate-tuning to high fms (50 to about 3000 Hz). In contrast to the phase-locked responses, the best fms determined from these latter responses appeared to be topographically distributed, reflecting a periodotopic organization in the AI. Implications of these results for the cortical representation of the perceptual qualities rhythm, roughness and pitch are discussed.