Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Pitch-Change Detection and Pitch-Direction Discrimination in Children

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

Pitch-Change Detection and Pitch-Direction Discrimination in Children

Article excerpt

The present study investigated developmental changes in the ability to detect a change in pitch and to discriminate the direction of a pitch change using pitch glides. Adaptive-tracking procedures established separate thresholds for both of these abilities in musically untrained participants across nine age-groups (5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-, 13-year-olds, and adults). The use of an odd-one-out paradigm avoided the need for participants to use semantic labels when determining the direction of a pitch change, and screening of the adaptive-staircase profile plots permitted the exclusion of inattentive performers. Although adults achieved equivalent thresholds for pitch-change detection and pitch-direction discrimination, there were age-related improvements for pitch-direction discrimination but not pitch-change detection in children between the ages of 6 and 11 years. The findings may indicate that the capacities to detect a change in pitch versus to discriminate the direction of a pitch change follow different developmental trajectories.

Keywords: pitch processing, pitch-direction discrimination, pitch-change detection

Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0033301.supp

Pitch is "that property of a sound that enables it to be ordered on scale going from low to high" (Acoustical Society of America Standard Acoustical Terminology, cf. Randel, 1978). It is a central organizing feature of the majority of the world's musical systems (McDermott & Oxenham, 2008), and the capacity to distinguish variations in pitch is critical to the perception and appreciation of music (Patel, 2008). The successful perception of Western music requires the capacity to detect a change in pitch of one semitone at a minimum. Equally important is the ability to encode the direction of a change in pitch, as this can be viewed as a building block of musical "contour." Contour is the structural property that describes a melody's shape, and as such is one of the key features along which melodies can be defined, classified, constructed, and remembered (Dowling & Fujitani, 1971; Dowling & Bartlett, 1981; Dowling & Harwood, 1986; Dowling, Kwak, & Andrews, 1995). For example, when asked to detect a change between two novel melodies, accuracy is much poorer when the second melody is transposed in pitch but the contour is unchanged (Bartlett & Dowling, 1980).

Several strands of evidence suggest that the capacities to detect a change in pitch ("pitch-change detection") and to discriminate the direction of a change in pitch ("pitch-direction discrimination") are functionally and anatomically separable in the adult (Stewart, Kriegstein, Warren, & Griffiths, 2006). Impairments in pitchchange detection are associated with damage to subcortical structures, ascending auditory pathways, and primary auditory cortex (PAC) in medial Heschl's Gyrus (HG) (Habib et al., 1995; Hattiangadi et al., 2005; Terao et al., 2006; Tramo, Shah, & Braida, 2002), whereas impairments in pitch-direction discrimination have been associated with lesions to lateral HG in the right hemisphere (Johnsrude, Penhune, & Zatorre, 2000; Terao et al., 2006; Tramo et al., 2002). Patients with temporal lobe excisions that encroach on anterolateral portions of HG in the right hemisphere demonstrate impaired pitch-direction discrimination and yet retain the capacity to detect equivalently small changes in pitch (Johnsrude et al., 2000; Tramo et al., 2002). A similar pattern of performance is observed in individuals with congenital amusia, where thresholds for pitch-direction discrimination are often markedly higher than those for pitch-change detection (Foxton, Dean, Gee, Peretz, & Griffiths, 2004; Liu, Patel, Fourcin, & Stewart, 2010; Williamson & Stewart, 2010).

Dissociations in pitch-change detection and pitch-direction discrimination have been observed in some adult listeners (Mathias, Micheyl, & Bailey, 2010; Semal & Demany, 2006). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.