Neural response correlates of detection of monaurally and binaurally created pitches in humans

Maria Chait, David Poeppel, Jonathan Z. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of human auditory cortex are pointing to brain areas on lateral Heschl's gyrus as the 'pitch-processing center'. Here we describe results of a combined MEG-psychophysical study designed to investigate the timing of the formation of the percept of pitch and the generality of the hypothesized 'pitch-center'. We compared the cortical and behavioral responses to Huggins pitch (HP), a stimulus requiring binaural processing to elicit a pitch percept, with responses to tones embedded in noise (TN) - perceptually similar but physically very different signals. The stimuli were crafted to separate the electrophysiological responses to onset of the pitch percept from the onset of the initial stimulus. Our results demonstrate that responses to monaural pitch stimuli are affected by cross-correlational processes in the binaural pathway. Additionally, we show that MEG illuminates processes not simply observable in behavior. Crucially, the MEG data show that, although physically disparate, both HP and TN are mapped onto similar representations by 150 ms post-onset, and provide critical new evidence that the 'pitch onset response' reflects central pitch mechanisms, in agreement with models postulating a single, central pitch extractor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-848
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory evoked response
  • Binaural system
  • Dichotic pitch
  • M100
  • MEG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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