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Is there a central brain area for hearing melodies and speech cues? Still an open question
Date:11/29/2011

Bethesda, Md. (Nov. 28, 2011)The perceptual feature of sound known as pitch is fundamental to human hearing, allowing us to enjoy the melodies and harmonies of music and recognize the inflection of speech. Previous studies have suggested that a particular hotspot in the brain might be responsible for perceiving pitch. However, auditory neuroscientists are still hotly debating whether this "pitch center" actually exists. In a new review article, Daniel Bendor, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses a recent study claiming that this pitch center may not exist after all, or alternatively, may not be located where previous research has suggested. The article is entitled "Does a Pitch Center Exist in Auditory Cortex?"and appears in the Articles in PresS section of the Journal of Neurophysiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

Methodology

Dr. Bendor writes a brief review outlining previous research that found a pitch processing center in a region of human auditory cortex located in lateral Heschl's gyrus, as well as other more recent studies that report data that contradict these earlier findings.

Results

The review points out decades-old research suggesting that the auditory cortex plays a pivotal role in pitch perception. Researchers originally obtained this finding by training cats to distinguish pitch, then removing the auditory cortex on both sides of the brainrendering the animals unable to distinguish pitch, but still able to discriminate other aspects of sound, such as frequency. Studies using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a technique that examines brain activity while subjects are actively performing tasks in an MRI scanner, suggested that the lateral Heschl's gyrus is the main player in pitch perception. Several fMRI studies have scanned subjects' brains while listening to noise, then compared the brain activity to when subjects listen to a s
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Contact: Donna Krupa
dkrupa@the-aps.org
301-634-7209
American Physiological Society
Source:Eurekalert

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