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J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Apr;125(4):2189-99. doi: 10.1121/1.3089220.

Can temporal fine structure represent the fundamental frequency of unresolved harmonics?

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Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


At least two modes of pitch perception exist: in one, the fundamental frequency (F0) of harmonic complex tones is estimated using the temporal fine structure (TFS) of individual low-order resolved harmonics; in the other, F0 is derived from the temporal envelope of high-order unresolved harmonics that interact in the auditory periphery. Pitch is typically more accurate in the former than in the latter mode. Another possibility is that pitch can sometimes be coded via the TFS from unresolved harmonics. A recent study supporting this third possibility [Moore et al. (2006a). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 119, 480-490] based its conclusion on a condition where phase interaction effects (implying unresolved harmonics) accompanied accurate F0 discrimination (implying TFS processing). The present study tests whether these results were influenced by audible distortion products. Experiment 1 replicated the original results, obtained using a low-level background noise. However, experiments 2-4 found no evidence for the use of TFS cues with unresolved harmonics when the background noise level was raised, or the stimulus level was lowered, to render distortion inaudible. Experiment 5 measured the presence and phase dependence of audible distortion products. The results provide no evidence that TFS cues are used to code the F0 of unresolved harmonics.

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