Tonotopic organization of the auditory cortex: pitch versus frequency representation

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Science  27 Oct 1989:
Vol. 246, Issue 4929, pp. 486-488
DOI: 10.1126/science.2814476


According to the place principles of the classical hearing theory, the physical entity frequency is encoded in the auditory periphery as place information (tonotopic representation), which is decoded in more central parts of the auditory system to form the subjective entity pitch. However, this relation is true only for pure-tone signals (spectral pitch); it can be quite different in the case of complex auditory stimuli (virtual pitch), thus requiring a multistage process for pitch formation. Neuromagnetic measurements showed that the tonotopic organization of the primary auditory cortex reflects the pitch rather than the frequency of the stimulus; that is, the pitch formation process must take place in subcortical regions.

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