Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you will not see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Spectral timbre is an acoustic feature that enables human listeners to determine the identity of a spoken vowel. Despite its importance to sound perception, little is known about the neural representation of sound timbre and few psychophysical studies have investigated timbre discrimination in non-human species. In this study, ferrets were positively conditioned to discriminate artificial vowel sounds in a two-alternative-forced-choice paradigm. Animals quickly learned to discriminate the vowel sound /u/ from /ε/ and were immediately able to generalize across a range of voice pitches. They were further tested in a series of experiments designed to assess how well they could discriminate these vowel sounds under different listening conditions. First, a series of morphed vowels was created by systematically shifting the location of the first and second formant frequencies. Second, the ferrets were tested with single formant stimuli designed to assess which spectral cues they could be using to make their decisions. Finally, vowel discrimination thresholds were derived in the presence of noise maskers presented from either the same or a different spatial location. These data indicate that ferrets show robust vowel discrimination behavior across a range of listening conditions and that this ability shares many similarities with human listeners.

Original publication

DOI

10.1121/1.4768798

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Acoust Soc Am

Publication Date

01/2013

Volume

133

Pages

365 - 376

Keywords

Acoustic Stimulation, Animals, Behavior, Animal, Choice Behavior, Cues, Discrimination (Psychology), Female, Ferrets, Humans, Noise, Perceptual Masking, Pitch Discrimination, Psychoacoustics, Sound Spectrography, Speech Acoustics, Voice Quality