Discrimination of Periodicity and Pitch Effects in Musicians and Non-musicians




Pitch perception is related to sound periodicity and provides important information for musical and vocal communication. Numerous studies show musical training and expertise are associated with better pitch processing, suggesting that internal representation of pitch is plastic. However, sound periodicity can be established in many ways and mechanisms of complex encoding are distributed across numerous auditory nuclei in brainstem and cortical regions. This makes it difficult to determine whether specific neural mechanisms are impacted or simply a general tuning of the auditory system occurs as a result of musical training. The current study employs the diversity of periodic acoustics to probe whether different types of pitch computations are plastic with auditory (musical) training. Based on previous data, our initial hypothesis was that musicians would perform better when pitch perception was evoked primarily by temporal or interaural cues, compared to percepts relying on tonotopic frequency selectivity. A traditional approach for determining how accurately listeners can perceive pitch involves measuring frequency difference limens (DLFs) for the fundamental frequency (F0). Here, we measured DLFs with a 3-alternative-forced-choice task in four stimulus conditions: 1) pure sinusoidal tones (PT), 2) interaurally correlated broadband noise (“Huggins” pitch, HP), 3) complex tones (CT) and 4) iterated rippled noise (IRN). In addition, we tested musical ability according to the International Laboratory for Brain Music and Sound Research (BRAMS) online test. According to our hypothesis, we predicted the biggest differences between musicians and nonmusicians would be observed in HP and IRN conditions. Initial results show BRAMS measures of musicality positively correlate to DLFs in all conditions, suggesting that either several pitch processing mechanisms are employed during music perception judgements or that more sensitive measures may need to be employed. Regarding pitch, musicians appear to have at least ~50% smaller DLFs than nonmusicians in the HP condition, and ~15% smaller DLFs in the PT condition but do not differ from nonmusicians in the CT or IRN conditions. These preliminary data suggest that interaural computation of pitch periodicity at the cortical level is most impacted by auditory training with music. We speculate this may be due in part to the increased flexibility of cortical computation, compared to pitch processing mechanisms that rely on more hard-wired frequency selective tonotopicity or phase-locked timing.

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2-9-2019

Publication Title

Association for Research in Otolaryngology Annual Meeting

Conference Dates

02/09/2019 - 02/13/2019

This document is currently not available here.