Pitch, our perception of how high or low a sound is on a musical scale, crucially depends on a sound's periodicity. If an acoustic signal is temporally jittered so that it becomes aperiodic, the pitch will no longer be perceivable even though other acoustical features that normally covary with pitch are unchanged. Previous electrophysiological studies investigating pitch have typically used only periodic acoustic stimuli, and as such these studies cannot distinguish between a neural representation of pitch and an acoustical feature that only correlates with pitch. In this report, we examine in the auditory cortex of awake marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) the neural coding of a periodicity's repetition rate, an acoustic feature that covaries with pitch. We first examine if individual neurons show similar repetition rate tuning for different periodic acoustic signals. We next measure how sensitive these neural representations are to the temporal regularity of the acoustic signal. We find that neurons throughout auditory cortex covary their firing rate with the repetition rate of an acoustic signal. However, similar repetition rate tuning across acoustic stimuli and sensitivity to temporal regularity were generally only observed in a small group of neurons found near the anterolateral border of primary auditory cortex, the location of a previously identified putative pitch processing center. These results suggest that although the encoding of repetition rate is a general component of auditory cortical processing, the neural correlate of periodicity is confined to a special class of pitch-selective neurons within the putative pitch processing center of auditory cortex.
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