The Harmonic Organization of Auditory Cortex

  • Xiaoqin Wang
Conference paper


Harmonicity is a unique feature of human speech, animal vocalizations, music, and many other natural or man-made sounds. Experimental evidence has shown that many neurons in the primary auditory cortex exhibit characteristic responses to harmonically related frequencies, in the form of facilitation and inhibition. Recent neurophysiology and imaging experiments have identified regions of nonprimary auditory cortex in humans and nonhuman primates that have selective responses to harmonic pitches. In this chapter, I propose that a fundamental organizational principle of auditory cortex is based on the harmonic structure of sounds.


Harmonicity Auditory cortex Marmoset 



This work has been supported by NIH grant DC-03180.


  1. Abeles M, Goldstein MH Jr (1970) Functional architecture in cat primary auditory cortex: columnar organization according to depth. J Neurophysiol 33:172–187PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bendor D, Wang X (2009) Neural processing of temporal regularity in auditory cortex, unpublished dataGoogle Scholar
  3. Bendor D, Wang X (2005) The neuronal representation of pitch in primate auditory cortex. Nature 436(7054):1161–1165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bendor DA, Wang X (2006) Cortical representations of pitch in monkeys and humans. Curr Opin Neurobiol 16:391–399PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bendor D, Wang X (2007) Differential neural coding of acoustic flutter within primate auditory cortex. Nat Neurosci 10:763–771PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bendor D, Wang X (2008) Neural response properties of core fields AI, R, and RT in the auditory cortex of marmoset monkeys. J Neurophysiol 100:888–906PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bieser A, Muller-Preuss P (1996) Auditory responsive cortex in the squirrel monkey: neural responses to amplitude-modulated sounds. Exp Brain Res 108:273–284PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chait M, Poeppel D, Simon JZ (2006) Neural response correlates of detection of monaurally and binaurally created pitches in humans. Cereb Cortex 16(6):835–848PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gutschalk A, Patterson RD, Rupp A, Uppenkamp S, Scherg M (2002) Sustained magnetic fields reveal separate sites for sound level and temporal regularity in human auditory cortex. Neuroimage 15:207–216PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gutschalk A, Patterson RD, Scherg M, Uppenkamp S, Rupp A (2004) Temporal dynamics of pitch in human auditory cortex. Neuroimage 22(2):755–766PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hall DA, Plack CJ (2007) The human ‘pitch center’ responds differently to iterated noise and Huggins pitch. Neuroreport 18(4):323–327PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hall DA, Plack CJ (2008) Pitch processing sites in the human auditory brain. Cereb Cortex 19(3):576–585PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hall DA, Barrett DJ, Akeroyd MA, Summerfield AQ (2005) Cortical representations of temporal structure in sound. J Neurophysiol 94(5):3181–3191PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hall DA, Edmondson-Jones AM, Fridriksson J (2006) Periodicity and frequency coding in human auditory cortex. Eur J Neurosci 24(12):3601–3610PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Joris PX, Schreiner CE, Rees A (2004) Neural processing of amplitude-modulated sounds. Physiol Rev 84(2):541–577PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kadia SC, Wang X (2003) Spectral integration in A1 of awake primates: neurons with single- and multipeaked tuning characteristics. J Neurophysiol 89(3):1603–1622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kanwal JS, Fitzpatrick DC, Suga N (1999) Facilitatory and inhibitory frequency tuning of combination-sensitive neurons in the primary auditory cortex of mustached bats. J Neurophysiol 82:2327–2345PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Langner G, Albert M, Briede T (2002) Temporal and spatial coding of periodicity information in the inferior colliculus of awake chinchilla (Chinchilla laniger). Hear Res 168:110–130PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liang L, Lu T, Wang X (2002) Neural representations of sinusoidal amplitude and frequency modulations in the auditory cortex of awake primates. J Neurophysiol 87:2237–2261PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Lu T, Liang L, Wang X (2001) Temporal and rate representations of time-varying signals in the auditory cortex of awake primates. Nat Neurosci 4:1131–1138PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Malone BJ, Scott BH, Semple MN (2007) Dynamic amplitude coding in the auditory cortex of awake rhesus macaques. J Neurophysiol 98:1451–1474PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Patterson RD, Uppenkamp S, Johnsrude IS, Griffiths TD (2002) The processing of temporal pitch and melody information in auditory cortex. Neuron 36(4):767–776PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Penagos H, Melcher JR, Oxenham AJ (2004) A neural representation of pitch salience in nonprimary human auditory cortex revealed with functional magnetic resonance imaging. J Neurosci 24(30):6810–6815PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Phillips DE, Irvine DRF (1981) Responses of single units in physiologically defined primary auditory cortex (A1) of the cat: frequency tuning and response to intensity. J Neurophysiol 45:48–58PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Plack CJ, Oxenham AJ (2005) The psychophysics of pitch. In: Plack CJ, Oxenham AJ, Fay RR, Popper AN (eds) Pitch: neural coding and perception. Springer, New York, pp 7–55Google Scholar
  26. Ritter S, Gunter Dosch H, Specht HJ, Rupp A (2005) Neuromagnetic responses reflect the temporal pitch change of regular interval sounds. Neuroimage 3:533–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schneider P, Sluming V, Roberts N, Scherg M, Goebel R, Specht HJ, Dosch HG, Bleeck S, Stippich C, Rupp A (2005) Structural and functional asymmetry of lateral Heschl’s gyrus reflects pitch perception preference. Nat Neurosci 8(9):1241–1247PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schulze H, Langner G (1997) Periodicity coding in the primary auditory cortex of the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus): two different coding strategies for pitch and rhythm? J Comp Physiol (A) 181:651–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schulze H, Hess A, Ohl FW, Scheich H (2002) Superposition of horseshoe-like periodicity and linear tonotopic maps in auditory cortex of the Mongolian gerbil. Eur J Neurosci 15:1077–1084PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Steinschneider M, Reser DH, Fishman YI, Schroeder CE, Arezzo JC (1998) Click train encoding in primary auditory cortex of the awake monkey: evidence for two mechanisms subserving pitch perception. J Acoust Soc Am 104(5):2935–2955PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Suga N, O’Neill WE, Kujirai K, Manabe T (1983) Specialization of “combination-sensitive” neurons for processing of complex biosonar signals in the auditory cortex of the mustached bat. J Neurophysiol 49:1573–1626PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Sutter ML, Schreiner CE (1991) Physiology and topography of neurons with multipeaked tuning curves in cat primary auditory cortex. J Neurophysiol 65:1207–1226PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Sutter ML, Schreiner CE, McLean M, O’Connor KN, Loftus WC (1999) Organization of inhibitory frequency receptive fields in cat primary auditory cortex. J Neurophysiol 82:2358–2371PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Auditory Neurophysiology, Department of Biomedical EngineeringJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations