Pitch perception prior to cortical maturation
Lau, Bonnie Kai Wai
MetadataShow full item record
Pitch perception plays an important role in many complex auditory tasks including speech perception, music perception, and sound source segregation. Because of the protracted and extensive development of the human auditory cortex, pitch perception might be expected to mature, at least over the first few months of life. This dissertation investigates complex pitch perception in 3-month-olds, 7-month-olds and adults - time points when the organization of the auditory pathway is distinctly different. Using an observer-based psychophysical procedure, a series of four studies were conducted to determine whether infants (1) discriminate the pitch of harmonic complex tones, (2) discriminate the pitch of unresolved harmonics, (3) discriminate the pitch of missing fundamental melodies, and (4) have comparable sensitivity to pitch and spectral changes as adult listeners. The stimuli used in these studies were harmonic complex tones, with energy missing at the fundamental frequency. Infants at both three and seven months of age discriminated the pitch of missing fundamental complexes composed of resolved and unresolved harmonics as well as missing fundamental melodies, demonstrating perception of complex pitch by three months of age. More surprisingly, infants in both age groups had lower pitch and spectral discrimination thresholds than adult listeners. Furthermore, no differences in performance on any of the tasks presented were observed between infants at three and seven months of age. These results suggest that subcortical processing is not only sufficient to support pitch perception prior to cortical maturation, but provides adult-like sensitivity to pitch by three months.
- Speech