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PLoS One





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The perception of pitch is a widely studied and hotly debated topic in human hearing. Many of these studies combine functional imaging techniques with stimuli designed to disambiguate the percept of pitch from frequency information present in the stimulus. While useful in identifying potential "pitch centres" in cortex, the existence of truly pitch-responsive neurons requires single neuron-level measures that can only be undertaken in animal models. While a number of animals have been shown to be sensitive to pitch, few studies have addressed the location of cortical generators of pitch percepts in non-human models. The current study uses high-field functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the feline brain in an attempt to identify regions of cortex that show increased activity in response to pitch-evoking stimuli. Cats were presented with iterated rippled noise (IRN) stimuli, narrowband noise stimuli with the same spectral profile but no perceivable pitch, and a processed IRN stimulus in which phase components were randomized to preserve slowly changing modulations in the absence of pitch (IRNo). Pitch-related activity was not observed to occur in either primary auditory cortex (A1) or the anterior auditory field (AAF) which comprise the core auditory cortex in cats. Rather, cortical areas surrounding the posterior ectosylvian sulcus responded preferentially to the IRN stimulus when compared to narrowband noise, with group analyses revealing bilateral activity centred in the posterior auditory field (PAF). This study demonstrates that fMRI is useful for identifying pitch-related processing in cat cortex, and identifies cortical areas that warrant further investigation. Moreover, we have taken the first steps in identifying a useful animal model for the study of pitch perception.

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