Review of the roles of temporal and place coding of frequency in speech discrimination
Journal/Book: Acta Otolaryngol. 1999; 119: 424-30.
Abstract: Numerous studies have demonstrated that the frequency spectrum of sounds is represented in the neural code of single auditory nerve fibres both spatially and temporally, but few experiments have been designed to test which of these two representations of frequency is used in the discrimination of complex sounds such as speech and music. This paper reviews the roles of place and temporal coding of frequency in the nervous system as a basis for frequency discrimination of complex sounds such as those in speech. Animal studies based on frequency analysis in the cochlea have shown that the place code changes systematically as a function of sound intensity and therefore lacks the robustness required to explain pitch perception (in humans), which is nearly independent of sound intensity. Further indication that the place principle plays a minor role in discrimination of speech comes from observations that signs of impairment of the spectral analysis in the cochlea in some individuals are not associated with impairments in speech discrimination. The importance of temporal coding is supported by the observation that injuries to the auditory nerve, assumed to impair temporal coherence of the discharges of auditory nerve fibres, are associated with grave impairments in speech discrimination. These observations indicate that temporal coding of sounds is more important for discrimination of speech than place coding. The implications of these findings for the design of prostheses such as cochlear implants are discussed.
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Keyword(s): Animal. Cochlea/physiology. Human. Speech Perception/physiology. Vestibulocochlear Nerve/physiology