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Localization of pitch in the brain?

Didier A. Depireux didier at rai.isr.umd.edu
Mon Jul 16 16:38:31 EST 2001

In bionet.neuroscience gg <tarantism99 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I am interested in any research pertaining to the localization of
> pitch in the human brain.  Specifically, I am looking for any studies
> relating localized neural activity to the perception of musical notes,

The bottom line is "we don't know". The main article that pertains to your
question is a study of people whose cortices were surgically removed for
epilepsy. When the right auditory cortex was removed (in humans), then
typically they lost all sense of pitch:

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America -- August 1988 -- Volume
84, Issue 2 pp. 566-572 

Pitch perception of complex tones and human temporal-lobe function

Robert J. Zatorre 
Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University, 3801
University Street, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B4, Canada 

Sixty-four patients with unilateral temporal-lobe excisions as well as 18
normal control subjects were tested in a missing fundamental pitch
perception task. Subjects were required to indicate if the pitch of a pair
of tones rose or fell. The excisions encroached upon Heschl's gyri in some
cases, whereas, in others, this region was spared. All subjects included
for study were able to perform well on a control task in which complex
tones including a fundamental were presented. Stimuli for the experimental
task, which was procedurally identical with the control task, consisted of
several harmonic components spanning the same spectral range, but without a
fundamental. Only subjects with right temporal lobectomy in whom Heschl's
gyri were excised committed significantly more errors than the normal
control group on this task. Patients with left temporal-lobe lesions or
with anterior right temporal-lobe excisions were unimpaired. These results
suggest that Heschl's gyri and surrounding cortex in the right cerebral
hemisphere play a crucial role in extracting the pitch corresponding to the
fundamental from a complex tone.


Didier A Depireux                              didier at isr.umd.edu
Neural Systems Lab                 http://www.isr.umd.edu/~didier
Institute for Systems Research          Phone: 301-405-6557 (off)
University of Maryland                                -6596 (lab)
College Park MD 20742 USA                     Fax: 1-301-314-9920

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