Physiological Models for Basic Auditory Percepts

  • Bertrand Delgutte
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 6)


Explaining auditory perceptual phenomena in terms of physiological mechanisms has a long tradition going back at least to von Helmholtz (1863), and possibly to as early as Pythagoras’ experiments on pitch and musical consonance (ca. 530 B.C.; see Cohen and Drabken 1948). In modern practice, such efforts take the form of computational models because these models help generate hypotheses that can be explicitly stated and quantitatively tested for complex systems. Relating physiology to behavior is perhaps the most direct route toward understanding how the auditory system works, because neither physiological nor perceptual data alone provide sufficient information: physiological studies cannot identify the function of the neural structures under investigation, while perceptual studies do not reveal the implementation of these functions. This endeavor is not only an intellectual challenge (Schouten’s “ever wondering mind”), it can also have practical value. Perceptual impairments such as difficulties in understanding speech may only yield to surgical and pharmacological cures if the problem is sufficiently well identified at the physiological level. Because any behavior such as speech perception involves a complex physiological system with many interacting components, it becomes essential to identify the roles of these various components in the behavior.


Auditory Nerve Cochlear Nucleus Fano Factor Frequency Discrimination Auditory Nerve Fiber 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1996

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  • Bertrand Delgutte

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