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J Acoust Soc Am. 1992 Jun;91(6):3499-510.

Formant frequency discrimination by Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata).

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  • 1Kresge Hearing Research Institute, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


These studies investigated formant frequency discrimination by Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) using an AX discrimination procedure and techniques of operant conditioning. Nonhuman subjects were significantly more sensitive to increments in the center frequency of either the first (F1) or second (F2) formant of single-formant complexes than to corresponding pure-tone frequency shifts. Furthermore, difference limens (DLs) for multiformant signals were not significantly different than those for single-formant stimuli. These results suggest that Japanese monkeys process formant and pure-tone frequency increments differentially and that the same mechanisms mediate formant frequency discrimination in single-formant and vowel-like complexes. The importance of two of the cues available to mediate formant frequency discrimination, changes in the phase and the amplitude spectra of the signals, was investigated by independently manipulating these two parameters. Results of the studies indicated that phase cues were not a significant feature of formant frequency discrimination by Japanese macaques. Rather, subjects attended to relative level changes in harmonics within a narrow frequency range near F1 and F2 to detect formant frequency increments. These findings are compared to human formant discrimination data and suggest that both species rely on detecting alterations in spectral shape to discriminate formant frequency shifts. Implications of the results for animal models of speech perception are discussed.

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