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Re: maximal hearable speed of pulses

Dear Len:

From my review of literature about temporal perception and music, I would suggest that you take a look at Pöppel's research:

Pöppel (1976) opted for a period of 20 to 30 milliseconds as the perceptual moment or time quantum, which has been defined as the least timewise element of psychological experience. Pöppel reported evidence postulating an “integration mechanism” in our brain with a controversial period of about 3 seconds that is roughly equivalent to the time span of the conscious or psychological present.

Moreover, Pöppel (1990) proposed that this time limit of 3 seconds could be the basis for a central neural pacemaker or biological clock that causes tempi and tempo relationships in music to be “unbiological” and hence with unpleasant aesthetic consequences for listener with “traditional listening habits,” if they are not tuned to this clock in our brain (p. 119, translated from German by E. Lapidaki).

Pöppel, E. (1990). Unmusikalische Grenzüberschreitungen? [Unmusical crossings of limits/thresholds?]. In C. R. Pfaltz (Ed.), Musik in der Zeit [Music in time] (pp. 105-124). Basel, Switzerland: Helbing & Lichtenhahn.

Pöppel, E. (1976). Time perception. In H. L. Teuber, R. Held, & H. Leibowitz (Eds.), Handbook of sensory physiology (Vol.8, pp. 713-729). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Eleni Lapidaki, PhD.,
Assistant Professor of Music,
Department of Music Studies,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
54124 Thessaloniki,

phone & voicemail (office):+30-2310991807

On 17 May 2006, at 17:09, Gerry Stefanatos wrote:

Dear Len:

Normal hearing individuals can discriminate one from two clicks with as
little as 1 to 3 ms of silence separating them (Miller & Taylor, 1948;
Patterson & Green, 1970; Hirsh, 1975). Interestingly, some patients with
temporal lobe lesions can demonstrate problems with temporal resolution
reflected in click fusion thresholds in the order of a couple of hundred
ms (see Stefanatos, Gershkoff and Madigan (2005) for a recent review.)
Tones require a longer ISI, in the order of 20-50 ms, as you noted.
While this tells us something about the minimal time between auditory
events that can be resolved by the human ear or brain, I am not sure
that this tells us much about resolution of a continuous train of pulses
or when fast tapping on a snaredrum become a drumroll. But I hope it's
helpful information.


Gerry A. Stefanatos, D. Phil.
Director, Cognitive Neurophysiology Laboratory
Moss Rehab Research Institute
Albert Einstein Medical Center
1200 W. Tabor Rd.
Philadelphia, PA 19141
Tel: (215) 456-5962
Fax: (215) 456-5926

Len Vrijders <len.vrijders@xxxxxxxx> 05/17/06 8:05 AM >>>
Hello everyone,

I am looking for any results on experiments that give a minimal time between events so that the human ear can still hear two sperate events. At an interval of 50ms, people hear a tone instead of sperate beats, maybe that is common knowledge but I would like to read a bit more on the subject.

People seem to be very interested in investigating the frequencies we
can hear, and I can find many articles dealing with this
subject, but I would like to know more about the hearable speed of
pulses, e.g. when does fast tapping on a snaredrum become a

Does anyone know any articles on this matter or is maybe currently
involved in any research around the subject?

Thanks in advance, -Len