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J Acoust Soc Am. 1991 May;89(5):2421-9.

Differential sensitivity to vowel continua in Old World monkeys (Macaca) and humans.

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Psychology Department, University of South Alabama, Mobile 36688.


Previous studies indicate that monkey pure tone frequency discrimination is quantitatively and qualitatively very different from that of humans: Monkey DLs at 1.0 and 2.0 kHz are up to 20 times larger than human DLs, and monkeys DLs increase as sensation level increases, in contrast to human DLs [Sinnott et al., J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 78, 1977-1985 (1985); Sinnott et al., J. Comp. Psychol. 101, 126-131 (1987)]. These results led to an hypothesis that monkey frequency discrimination is more dependent upon "rate" coding than is that of humans. The present study compared monkey and human DLs for formant frequency changes along three synthetic vowel continua /I-i/, /ae-epsilon/, and /a-v/. Here, monkey DLs for formants near 1.0 and 2.0 kHz (32-48 Hz) were only about two to three times larger than human DLs (11-21 Hz), and both monkeys and humans exhibited relatively similar, flat sensation level functions. Taken together, these data indicate that monkey and human frequency discrimination is more similar in the case of a complex vowel stimulus than in the case of a simple pure tone stimulus. Results are discussed in relation to "rate" versus "temporal" coding of tones and vowels in the auditory system.

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