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Neuropsychologia. 2008 Jan 31;46(2):632-9. Epub 2007 Sep 14.

Evidence for the role of the right auditory cortex in fine pitch resolution.

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  • 1Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, 3801 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2B4.


The neural basis of human pitch perception is not fully understood. It has been argued that the auditory cortices in the two hemispheres are specialized, such that certain right auditory cortical regions have a relatively finer resolution in the frequency domain than homologous regions in the left auditory cortex, but this concept has not been tested directly. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to test this specific prediction. Healthy volunteers were scanned while passively listening to pure-tone melodic-like sequences in which the pitch distance between consecutive tones was varied in a parametric fashion. As predicted, brain activation in a region of right lateral auditory cortex, corresponding to the planum temporale, was linearly responsive to increasing pitch distance, even across the fine changes in pitch. In contrast, the BOLD signal at the homologous left cortical region was relatively constant as a function of pitch distance, except at the largest pitch change. The results support the model of relative hemispheric specialization and indicate that the right secondary auditory cortex has a finer pitch resolution than the left.

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