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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(11):e1002759. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002759. Epub 2012 Nov 1.

Music in our ears: the biological bases of musical timbre perception.

Author information

1
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Center for Language and Speech Processing, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Erratum in

  • PLoS Comput Biol. 2013 Oct;9(10). doi: 10.1371/annotation/d8b290d3-32b7-4ded-b315-d1e699bb34da.

Abstract

Timbre is the attribute of sound that allows humans and other animals to distinguish among different sound sources. Studies based on psychophysical judgments of musical timbre, ecological analyses of sound's physical characteristics as well as machine learning approaches have all suggested that timbre is a multifaceted attribute that invokes both spectral and temporal sound features. Here, we explored the neural underpinnings of musical timbre. We used a neuro-computational framework based on spectro-temporal receptive fields, recorded from over a thousand neurons in the mammalian primary auditory cortex as well as from simulated cortical neurons, augmented with a nonlinear classifier. The model was able to perform robust instrument classification irrespective of pitch and playing style, with an accuracy of 98.7%. Using the same front end, the model was also able to reproduce perceptual distance judgments between timbres as perceived by human listeners. The study demonstrates that joint spectro-temporal features, such as those observed in the mammalian primary auditory cortex, are critical to provide the rich-enough representation necessary to account for perceptual judgments of timbre by human listeners, as well as recognition of musical instruments.

PMID:
23133363
PMCID:
PMC3486808
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002759
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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