Cortical encoding of pitch: recent results and open questions.
Walker KM., Bizley JK., King AJ., Schnupp JW.
It is widely appreciated that the key predictor of the pitch of a sound is its periodicity. Neural structures which support pitch perception must therefore be able to reflect the repetition rate of a sound, but this alone is not sufficient. Since pitch is a psychoacoustic property, a putative cortical code for pitch must also be able to account for the relationship between the amount to which a sound is periodic (i.e. its temporal regularity) and the perceived pitch salience, as well as limits in our ability to detect pitch changes or to discriminate rising from falling pitch. Pitch codes must also be robust in the presence of nuisance variables such as loudness or timbre. Here, we review a large body of work on the cortical basis of pitch perception, which illustrates that the distribution of cortical processes that give rise to pitch perception is likely to depend on both the acoustical features and functional relevance of a sound. While previous studies have greatly advanced our understanding, we highlight several open questions regarding the neural basis of pitch perception. These questions can begin to be addressed through a cooperation of investigative efforts across species and experimental techniques, and, critically, by examining the responses of single neurons in behaving animals.