Your Brain Has Perfect Pitch

first_imgScientists have a knack for asking questions about things most of us take for granted.  “The whole orchestra tunes up to an A note from the oboe – but how do our brains tell that all the different sounds are the same pitch?” asks Robert J. Zatorre in Nature.1  This is a puzzling question to neurologists.  There’s more, as Zatorre illustrates with a Disney story:As Pythagoras knew, if you pluck a string, it will vibrate in its entire extent, as well as in halves, thirds and so on, and each of those vibrational modes will result in a separate harmonic frequency. Yet we usually perceive the pitch as corresponding to the lowest of these, which is the fundamental.  For a simple demonstration of the ‘missing fundamental’ effect, pick up a phone.  Most telephone lines cut off the lower frequencies, resulting in a slightly tinny sound, yet the fundamental pitch does not change; a male voice does not sound like Mickey Mouse.  The brain seems to figure out the missing pitch. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)Is this just learned behavior, or what?  Apparently not.  Researchers working with marmosets have found neurons that are pitch-sensitive:Bendor and Wang studied the auditory cortex (the region of the brain that enables perception of sound) in the marmoset monkey.  They show that there are neurons in this region that respond in essentially the same way to a variety of sounds that all have the same fundamental but do not share any frequencies.  For example, a neuron that responds to 200 hertz also responds to the combination of 800, 1,000, and 1,200 hertz because all correspond to the same fundamental.  This effect is unusual because neurons usually respond only within their receptive field, which is typically a narrow range of frequencies. The marmoset neurons, however, responded not only to frequencies in their receptive fields, but also when there was no frequency within the receptive field but the other frequencies in the stimulus were harmonically related to the missing one.  This property makes psychologists happy, because it provides evidence (if not yet a mechanism) for perceptual constancy.  These neurons respond to an abstract property – pitch – derived from, but not identical to, physical sound features. Presumably, therefore, it is thanks to such neurons that we can follow a tune as the instruments change.That leads to an evolutionary follow-up question, which Zatorre attempts to answer: One might wonder why marmosets need such a system, given that they don’t spend much time listening to iPods.  But periodic sounds are important in the natural environment because they are almost exclusively produced by other animals, and so pitch is a good cue to segregate these sounds from background noise.  Marmosets are highly vocal creatures, and the development of pitch-sensitive neurons would also be central to communication.  From an evolutionary perspective, these abilities could be seen as precursors to human pitch perception, which has led to our unique development of music and is similarly crucial for speech.That’s that for now; he quickly changes the subject: “Now that we know that there are pitch-sensitive neural units, we have to discover how they work.”  He has a long list of unanswered questions: How does the ear keep the information intact through the transformations between eardrum and cochlea?  How does the brain extract details from the overall fabric of sound?  What are the inputs to these pitch-sensitive neurons? – are they hierarchical, or built up from multiple inputs from other structures in the brain?  Do inputs from the higher cognitive regions of the brain participate?  Are these neuronal properties hard-wired or learned?  The list of answers is shorter: we don’t know.1Robert J. Zatorre, “Neuroscience: Finding the missing fundamental,” Nature 436, 1093-1094 (25 August 2005) | doi: 10.1038/4361093a.This article almost earned a Dumb award for its useless evolutionary speculations.  Zatorre committed the plostrum ante equum fallacy (cart before the horse), assuming that necessity was a sufficient mother of invention.  Aside from the empty evolutionary fluff, though, the article underscored a fascinating aspect of hearing that merely hints at the engineering necessary to make it work.  Music doesn’t make evolutionary sense because it is a gift of God.  If Bach appreciated that fact, how much more so should modern anatomists, physiologists and neurologists.(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Stalin to reprise his Namakku Naame programme in TN

first_imgChennai, Oct 20 (PTI) In a rerun of his Namakku Naame programme, DMK working president M K Stalin today said he will embark on a month-long outreach campaign across Tamil Nadu from November to highlight the “failings” of the AIADMK regime.The Leader of Opposition in the assembly, who intensified his attack on the incumbent regime following dengue deaths in the state, said the campaign was needed to tell the people how the “horse-trading” regime was bowing to the Centre.”Not only for local body, assembly and parliamentary polls, the campaign is also good for the partys growth,” he told reporters after chairing the partys district secretaries meet here.The campaign will begin in the first week of November and conclude in December, Stalin said, adding the itinerary will be announced in four to five days after discussions with district secretaries.Stalins announcement on the state-wide campaign comes against the backdrop of his recent remarks that assembly polls could be held even before local body elections.In view of the factional feud in the ruling AIADMK between the Chief Minister K Palaniswami-led camp and T T V Dhinakaran group, opposition parties have accused them of hankering after power while questioning the governments stability.As regards local body polls which were due last October, the Madras High Court had recently issued notices to State Election Commissioner M Malik Feroze Khan and secretary T S Rajasekar on a contempt of court application filed by the DMK.The plea was filed for not complying with the courts September 4 order to issue notification for the local body polls by September 18 and complete the entire election process by November 17.advertisementIn 2015, Stalin had launched his “Namakku Naame Vidiyal Meetpu Payanam” (We for ourselves, journey to retrieve dawn) campaign by going in for a complete image makeover.Seeking to mould public opinion in his partys favour and target then chief minister Jayalalithaa over her “inaccessibility,” he freely interacted with people.Sporting bright formal outfits and sunglasses, Stalin hopped on to a scooter or a bicycle, and met people in buses, trains and other public places. In a departure from the past, he had tea and food in roadside stalls with commoners.Though the AIADMK made fun of his campaign, saying “he does not remove his sunglasses even in the dark,” his campaign helped propel the DMK to emerge as a strong opposition party with 89 MLAs, though it could not wrest power.The DMK leader held events like “Pesalam Vanga” (Come Let us Talk) in 2015, similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modis “Chai pe Charcha”, with the people of his constituency Kolathur.On the district secretaries meet, Stalin said a resolution was adopted urging the central and state governments to declare a “health emergency” in view of continuing dengue deaths and take steps on a war-footing.Another resolution was passed condemning the state government for giving away the states rights on a platter, he said.One more resolution was adopted urging the state government to hold local body elections immediately and address the issues faced by the people, the DMK leader added. PTI VGN SS BN SRYlast_img read more

10 months agoLiverpool boss Klopp insists he’s counting on Lallana

first_imgTagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Liverpool boss Klopp insists he’s counting on Lallanaby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveLiverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insists he’s counting on Adam Lallana this season.The midfielder has been linked with a move away this month.Klopp said, “Adam is actually in outstanding shape – I said it a few times maybe, but it’s unbelievable in training. So we have to say it was close in the last game: ‘Do we start him or not?’ and stuff like this. “It’s really, really good and it’s like always in life, if you learn from your experiences… you cannot learn too much from being injured and stuff like that, but how is your mood? Adam is a player who always wants to play. He would play four games a day if possible just from his desire to play football. “He is really, I would say in the moment, in the best moment since I know him, just like as a person he is fantastic. He will have a big part of our season I am really sure and that’s cool. But in training everything is good, when he came on everything was good so far, so now he is ready to take these little steps.” last_img read more