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Absolute and relative pitch processing in the human brain: Neural and behavioral evidence


Leipold, Simon; Brauchli, Christian; Greber, Marielle; Jäncke, Lutz (2019). Absolute and relative pitch processing in the human brain: Neural and behavioral evidence. bioRxiv 526541, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Pitch is a primary perceptual dimension of sounds and is crucial in music and speech perception. When listening to melodies, most humans encode the relations between pitches into memory using an ability called relative pitch (RP). A small subpopulation, almost exclusively musicians, preferentially encode pitches using absolute pitch (AP): the ability to identify the pitch of a sound without an external reference. In this study, we recruited a large sample of musicians with AP (AP musicians) and without AP (RP musicians). The participants performed a pitch-processing task with a Listening and a Labeling condition during functional magnetic resonance imaging. General linear model analysis revealed that while labeling tones, AP musicians showed lower blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal in the inferior frontal gyrus and the presupplementary motor area - brain regions associated with working memory, language functions, and auditory imagery. At the same time, AP musicians labeled tones more accurately suggesting that AP might be an example of neural efficiency. In addition, using multivariate pattern analysis, we found that BOLD signal patterns in the inferior frontal gyrus and the presupplementary motor area differentiated between the groups. These clusters were similar, but not identical compared to the general linear model-based clusters. Therefore, information about AP and RP might be present on different spatial scales. While listening to tones, AP musicians showed increased BOLD signal in the right planum temporale which may reflect the matching of pitch information with internal templates and corroborates the importance of the planum temporale in AP processing.

Abstract

Pitch is a primary perceptual dimension of sounds and is crucial in music and speech perception. When listening to melodies, most humans encode the relations between pitches into memory using an ability called relative pitch (RP). A small subpopulation, almost exclusively musicians, preferentially encode pitches using absolute pitch (AP): the ability to identify the pitch of a sound without an external reference. In this study, we recruited a large sample of musicians with AP (AP musicians) and without AP (RP musicians). The participants performed a pitch-processing task with a Listening and a Labeling condition during functional magnetic resonance imaging. General linear model analysis revealed that while labeling tones, AP musicians showed lower blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signal in the inferior frontal gyrus and the presupplementary motor area - brain regions associated with working memory, language functions, and auditory imagery. At the same time, AP musicians labeled tones more accurately suggesting that AP might be an example of neural efficiency. In addition, using multivariate pattern analysis, we found that BOLD signal patterns in the inferior frontal gyrus and the presupplementary motor area differentiated between the groups. These clusters were similar, but not identical compared to the general linear model-based clusters. Therefore, information about AP and RP might be present on different spatial scales. While listening to tones, AP musicians showed increased BOLD signal in the right planum temporale which may reflect the matching of pitch information with internal templates and corroborates the importance of the planum temporale in AP processing.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:27 Feb 2019 15:54
Last Modified:30 Jun 2019 07:21
Series Name:bioRxiv
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1101/526541
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID320030_163149
  • : Project TitleDie neuronalen Grundlagen des absoluten Gehörs und der Ton-Farbsynästhesie: Zwei Seiten einer Medaille?

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