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Re: memory for pitch

Dear Diana and others,

you wrote (Monday, May 22):

...... So at least where memory for the pitch of a
single tone is concerned, performance appears to be substantially
unrelated to rehearsal strategy, and appears to be the function of a
low-level system that has characteristics which are very similar to
the system that handles pitch information at the incoming level.

Your indications of a low-level system for the short-term memory of pitch is further supported by musical practice and by results of research in neurophysiology.

1) In music we experience consonance and dissonance not only for simultaneous tones, but also for non-simultaneous ones. When comparing the two series of tones C4-F4-A4-C5 and C4-F4-A4-C#5, the first one is perceived as more consonant than the second. Today we further assume that this sensitivity for "horizontal harmony" is due to the structure of the mammalian auditory brain, because also monkeys have it (Wright et al., 2000).

In order to explain the sensory interaction of non-simultaneous tones, some kind of internal reverberation was suggested. Clearly, if the quality of interaction depends on acoustic frequency ratios, the interaction must occur at a level where neural signals still contain pitch-related periodicity information. The highest level where this information is still present is the auditory midbrain (colliculi inferiores).

2) Bob Zatorre and his team found in two positron emission tomographic studies (1994, 1996) that imagination of pitch of musical tones led to a significant activity increase also in the auditory midbrain (colliculi inferiores).

Zatorre, R.J., Evans, A.C., Meyer, E., 1994. Neural mechanisms underlying melodic perception and memory for pitch. J. Neurosci. 14, 1908-1919.

Zatorre, R.J., Halpern, A.R., Perry, D.W., Meyer, E., Evans, A.C., 1996. Hearing in the mind's ear: A PET investigation of musical imagery and perception. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 8, 29-46.

Wright, A.A., Rivera, J.J., Hulse, S.H., Shyan, M., Neiworth, J.J., 2000. Music perception and octave generalization in rhesus monkeys. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 129, 291-307.
[I wrote a short comment at: http://web.telia.com/~u57011259/Wright.htm ]



Martin Braun
Neuroscience of Music
S-671 95 Klässbol
web site: http://w1.570.telia.com/~u57011259/index.htm