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J Comp Psychol. 1986 Dec;100(4):356-60.

Perception of missing fundamental by a species of songbird (Sturnus vulgaris).


Two experiments investigated whether a species of songbird perceives missing fundamentals in sounds containing complex frequencies. In Experiment 1, European starlings were trained to discriminate between two sinusoids. This discrimination persisted when the sinusoids were replaced with waveforms composed solely of four consecutive higher harmonics of the training frequencies. In Experiment 2, starlings trained to discriminate between two complex frequencies consisting of sets of higher harmonics transferred the discrimination to the sinusoidal fundamentals. The results demonstrate that starlings can perceive harmonic or periodic structure, and show that a species of songbird can use harmonic structure to gain information about its auditory environment. The findings, together with those obtained from fish and mammals, suggest that periodicity pitch perception may be a general process in vertebrate hearing.

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