Pitch discrimination of diotic and dichotic tone complexes: Harmonic resolvability or harmonic number?

Joshua G. Bernstein, Andrew J. Oxenham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


Three experiments investigated the relationship between harmonic number, harmonic resolvability, and the perception of harmonic complexes. Complexes with successive equal-amplitude sine- or random-phase harmonic components of a 100- or 200-Hz fundamental frequency (f0) were presented dichotically, with even and odd components to opposite ears, or diotically, with all harmonics presented to both ears. Experiment 1 measured performance in discriminating a 3.5%-5% frequency difference between a component of a harmonic complex and a pure tone in isolation. Listeners achieved at least 75% correct for approximately the first 10 and 20 individual harmonics in the diotic and dichotic conditions, respectively, verifying that only processes before the binaural combination of information limit frequency selectivity. Experiment 2 measured fundamental frequency difference limens (f0 DLs) as a function of the average lowest harmonic number. Similar results at both f0's provide further evidence that harmonic number, not absolute frequency, underlies the order- of-magnitude increase observed in f0 DLs when only harmonics above about the 10th are presented. Similar results under diotic and dichotic conditions indicate that the auditory system, in performing f0 discrimination, is unable to utilize the additional peripherally resolved harmonics in the dichotic case. In experiment 3, dichotic complexes containing harmonics below the 12th, or only above the 15th, elicited pitches of the f0 and twice the f0, respectively. Together, experiments 2 and 3 suggest that harmonic number, regardless of peripheral resolvability, governs the transition between two different pitch percepts, one based on the frequencies of individual resolved harmonics and the other based on the periodicity of the temporal envelope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3323-3334
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


Dive into the research topics of 'Pitch discrimination of diotic and dichotic tone complexes: Harmonic resolvability or harmonic number?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this