Ultra-fine frequency tuning revealed in single neurons of human auditory cortex

Just-noticeable differences of physical parameters are often limited by the resolution of the peripheral sensory apparatus. Thus, two-point discrimination in vision is limited by the size of individual photoreceptors. Frequency selectivity is a basic property of neurons in the mammalian auditory pathway1,2. However, just-noticeable differences of frequency are substantially smaller than the bandwidth of the peripheral sensors3. Here we report that frequency tuning in single neurons recorded from human auditory cortex in response to random-chord stimuli is far narrower than that typically described in any other mammalian species (besides bats), and substantially exceeds that attributed to the human auditory periphery. Interestingly, simple spectral filter models failed to predict the neuronal responses to natural stimuli, including speech and music. Thus, natural sounds engage additional processing mechanisms beyond the exquisite frequency tuning probed by the random-chord stimuli.

Authors: Y. Bitterman, R. Mukamel, R. Malach, I. Fried & I. Nelken
Year of publication: 2008
Journal: Nature volume 451, pages 197–201 (10 January 2008)

Link to publication:


“Working memory”