Persona Digital Music

The Musical Brain

Pitch, timbre, familiarity

Pitch recognition is a built-in talent that is not uniformly inherited. Some humans are described as “tone deaf” when they cannot identify or reproduce pitches they hear. Pitch like, color is a subjective experience that correlates more or less with the wave frequency of the source. Sounds have a fundamental frequency with timbral harmonics as multiples of the fundamental.  The same pitched note played on a trumpet and piano can be readily identified even though the waveforms on an oscilloscope are quite different.

Platel et al used PET scanning to study the cerebral activation of volunteers performing 4 tasks: selective attention to pitch, timbre and rhythm and semantic familiarity with tunes. They observed that the left hemisphere was more active for familiarity, pitch and rhythm determination.

The right hemisphere was more active for the timbre task.

The familiarity task activated the left inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus.

The pitch task activations were observed in the left cuneus/precuneus.

The rhythm task activated left inferior Broca's language area with extension into the neighboring insula, suggesting the processing of  sequential sounds is the basis of word recognition processing.

Pernaia used functional MRI to measure brain activity in 1- to 3-day-old newborns while they heard music and observed predominantly right-hemispheric activations in the auditory cortex.  They concluded that the human infant brain shows early hemispheric specialization and  that music processing in newborns is sensitive to changes in tonal key as well as to differences in consonance and dissonance.

The Musical Brain and other topics presented at Persona Digital Studio
are from the book, The Sound of Music by Stephen Gislason.
Click the Download button to order the eBook from Alpha Online

persona mandala

Persona Digital Studio is located on the Sunshine Coast, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

All the recordings are arrangements, performances and recordings are completed in house by Stephen Gislason.