The harmonic organization of auditory cortex

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

A fundamental structure of sounds encountered in the natural environment is the harmonicity. Harmonicity is an essential component of music found in all cultures. It is also a unique feature of vocal communication sounds such as human speech and animal vocalizations. Harmonics in sounds are produced by a variety of acoustic generators and reflectors in the natural environment, including vocal apparatuses of humans and animal species as well as music instruments of many types. We live in an acoustic world full of harmonicity. Given the widespread existence of the harmonicity in many aspects of the hearing environment, it is natural to expect that it be reflected in the evolution and development of the auditory systems of both humans and animals, in particular the auditory cortex. Recent neuroimaging and neurophysiology experiments have identified regions of non-primary auditory cortex in humans and non-human primates that have selective responses to harmonic pitches. Accumulating evidence has also shown that neurons in many regions of the auditory cortex exhibit characteristic responses to harmonically related frequencies beyond the range of pitch. Together, these findings suggest that a fundamental organizational principle of auditory cortex is based on the harmonicity. Such an organization likely plays an important role in music processing by the brain. It may also form the basis of the preference for particular classes of music and voice sounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Volume7
Issue numberDEC
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 17 2013

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Keywords

  • Auditory cortex
  • Harmonicity
  • Marmoset
  • Music
  • Pitch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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