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Neuroreport. 1998 Jun 22;9(9):2115-9.

Pitch processing in the human brain is influenced by language experience.

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  • 1Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1353, USA.


Positron emission tomography (PET) was used in a cross-linguistic study to compare pitch processing in native speakers of English, a nontone language, with those of Thai, a tone language. When discriminating pitch patterns in Thai words, only the Thai subjects showed activation in the left frontal operculum. Activation of this region near the classically defined Broca's area suggests that the brain recognizes functional properties, rather than simply acoustic properties, of complex auditory cues in accessing language-specific mechanisms in pitch perception.

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