The role of peripheral spectro-temporal coding in congenital amusia

Marion Cousineau, Andrew J. Oxenham, Isabelle Peretz

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Congenital amusia, a neurogenetic disorder, affects primarily pitch and melody perception. Here we test the hypothesis that amusics suffer from impaired access to spectro-temporal fine-structure cues associated with low-order resolved harmonics. The hypothesis is motivated by the fact that tones containing only unresolved harmonics result in poorer pitch sensitivity in normal-hearing listeners. F0DLs were measured in amusics and matched controls for harmonic complexes containing either resolved or unresolved harmonics. Sensitivity to temporal-fine-structure was assessed via interaural-time- difference (ITD) thresholds, intensity resolution was probed via interaural-level-difference (ILD) thresholds and intensity difference limens, and spectral resolution was estimated using the notched-noise method. As expected, F0DLs were elevated in amusics for resolved harmonics; however, no difference between amusics and controls was found for F0DLs using unresolved harmonics. The deficit appears unlikely to be due to temporal-fine-structure coding, as ITD thresholds were unimpaired in the amusic group. In addition, no differences were found between the two groups in ILD thresholds, intensity difference limens, or auditory-filter bandwidths. Overall the results suggest a pitch-specific deficit in fine spectro-temporal information processing in amusia that cannot be ascribed to defective temporal-fine-structure or spectral encoding in the auditory periphery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number050075
JournalProceedings of Meetings on Acoustics
StatePublished - 2013
Event21st International Congress on Acoustics, ICA 2013 - 165th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America - Montreal, QC, Canada
Duration: Jun 2 2013Jun 7 2013


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