Xiaoqin Wang and Daniel Bendor

in The Oxford Handbook of Auditory Science: The Auditory Brain

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199233281
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology


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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology



Pitch is the percept that allows sounds to be ordered on a musical scale and can be evoked by either pure tones or complex sounds. It is closely associated with the perception of harmonically structured or periodic signals. This reflects the need of the auditory system to discriminate between environmental sounds and vocalizations. This article provides an understanding of how the auditory system processes pitch which has direct implications for cochlear implant design and speech recognition technologies. It discusses how the auditory system encodes a sound's pitch, focusing on physiological studies. One critical issue of how the acoustic stimulus interacts with the cochlea's basilar membrane is considered. Neural mechanisms for encoding pitch are studied in nearly all auditory structures from the periphery to cortex. Neural processing of pitch is discussed as subcortical and cortical processing. The article concludes with areas of research that involves the issue of how the cortical representation of pitch influences pitch-related stream segregation.

Keywords: pitch; auditory system; acoustic stimulus; neural mechanisms; cortical representation

Article.  12454 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Cognitive Psychology

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