Representation of voice pitch in discharge patterns of auditory-nerve fibers

Michael I. Miller, Murray B Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Responses of populations of auditory-nerve fibers were measured for synthesized consonant-vowel stimuli. This paper explores the encoding of fundamental frequency (pitch) in these responses. Post-stimulus time (PST) histograms were computed from 25 ms segments of the spike trains. Discrete Fourier transforms with a 40 Hz resolution were computed from the histograms. Two representations of pitch are considered. The first representation is based on the pitch-related temporal properties of the speech signal. Histograms for individual units can show envelope modulations directly related to the pitch period. These modulations reflect the responses of these fibers to a number of stimulus harmonics near fiber CF. Responses of fibers near formant frequencies are dominated by a single large harmonic component, and thus show small or no pitch-related enveloped modulations. Envelope modulations are reduced in the presence of background noise. The second representation uses both temporal properties of auditory-nerve responses and cochlear place to encode the pitch-related harmonic structure of speech. As a measure of the response of the population of fibers to each harmonic of 40 Hz the magnitude of the component of the Fourier transform at that frequency was averaged across all fibers whose characteristic frequencies were within one-fourth octave of that harmonic. We call this measure the average localized synchronized rate (ALSR). The ALSR provides a good representation of stimulus spectrum, even in the presence of background noise. From the harmonic structure of the ALSR, we are able to extract the stimulus pitch frequency. The relationship of these two representations to pitch perception in both acoustic and electrical stimulation (via cochlear implants) is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-279
Number of pages23
JournalHearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1984


  • auditory-nerve fiber
  • fundamental frequency
  • speech coding
  • voice pitch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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