Pitch, our perception of how high or low a sound is on a musical scale, is a fundamental perceptual attribute of sounds and is important for both music and speech. After more than a century of research, the exact mechanisms used by the auditory system to extract pitch are still being debated. Theoretically, pitch can be computed using either spectral or temporal acoustic features of a sound. We have investigated how cues derived from the temporal envelope and spectrum of an acoustic signal are used for pitch extraction in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), a vocal primate species, by measuring pitch discrimination behaviorally and examining pitch-selective neuronal responses in auditory cortex. Wefind that pitch is extracted by marmosets using temporal envelope cues for lower pitch sounds composed of higher-order harmonics, whereas spectral cues are used for higher pitch sounds with lower-order harmonics. Our data support dual-pitch processing mechanisms, originally proposed by psychophysicists based on human studies, whereby pitch is extracted using a combination of temporal envelope and spectral cues.
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