Early processing of consonance and dissonance in human auditory cortex

30 Nov 2017  ·  Tabas Alejandro, Andermann Martin, Sebold Valeria, Riedel Helmut, Balaguer-Ballester Emili, Rupp André ·

Pitch is the perceptual correlate of sound's periodicity and a fundamental property of the auditory sensation. The interaction of two or more pitches gives rise to a sensation that can be characterized by its degree of consonance or dissonance... In the current study, we investigated the neuromagnetic representations of consonant and dissonant musical dyads using a new model of cortical activity, in an effort to assess the possible involvement of pitch-specific neural mechanisms in consonance processing at early cortical stages. In the first step of the study, we developed a novel model of cortical pitch processing designed to explain the morphology of the pitch onset response (POR), a pitch-specific subcomponent of the auditory evoked N100 component in the human auditory cortex. The model explains the neural mechanisms underlying the generation of the POR and quantitatively accounts for the relation between its peak latency and the perceived pitch. Next, we applied magnetoencephalography (MEG) to record the POR as elicited by six consonant and dissonant dyads. The peak latency of the POR was strongly modulated by the degree of consonance within the stimuli; specifically, the most dissonant dyad exhibited a POR with a latency that was about 30ms longer than that of the most consonant dyad, an effect that greatly exceeds the expected latency difference induced by a single pitch sound. Our model was able to predict the POR latency pattern observed in the neuromagnetic data, and to generalize this prediction to additional dyads. These results indicate that the neural mechanisms responsible for pitch processing exhibit an intrinsic differential response to concurrent consonant and dissonant pitch combinations, suggesting that the perception of consonance and dissonance might be an emergent property of the pitch processing system in human auditory cortex. read more

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