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Complex pitch perception mechanisms are shared by humans and a New World monkey

OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 30 Dec 2015

X Song, MS Osmanski, Y Guo and X Wang
Abstract
The perception of the pitch of harmonic complex sounds is a crucial function of human audition, especially in music and speech processing. Whether the underlying mechanisms of pitch perception are unique to humans, however, is unknown. Based on estimates of frequency resolution at the level of the auditory periphery, psychoacoustic studies in humans have revealed several primary features of central pitch mechanisms. It has been shown that (i) pitch strength of a harmonic tone is dominated by resolved harmonics; (ii) pitch of resolved harmonics is sensitive to the quality of spectral harmonicity; and (iii) pitch of unresolved harmonics is sensitive to the salience of temporal envelope cues. Here we show, for a standard musical tuning fundamental frequency of 440 Hz, that the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), a New World monkey with a hearing range similar to that of humans, exhibits all of the primary features of central pitch mechanisms demonstrated in humans. Thus, marmosets and humans may share similar pitch perception mechanisms, suggesting that these mechanisms may have emerged early in primate evolution.
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Concepts
Sound, Pitch, Music, Callithrix, Timbre, Acoustics, Musical tuning, Primate
MeSH headings
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