Article abstract

Nature Neuroscience 8, 1241 - 1247 (2005)
Published online: 21 August 2005 | doi:10.1038/nn1530

Structural and functional asymmetry of lateral Heschl's gyrus reflects pitch perception preference

Peter Schneider1, Vanessa Sluming2,3, Neil Roberts3, Michael Scherg1, Rainer Goebel4, Hans J Specht5, H Günter Dosch5, Stefan Bleeck6, Christoph Stippich1 & André Rupp1

The relative pitch of harmonic complex sounds, such as instrumental sounds, may be perceived by decoding either the fundamental pitch (f0) or the spectral pitch (fSP) of the stimuli. We classified a large cohort of 420 subjects including symphony orchestra musicians to be either f0 or fSP listeners, depending on the dominant perceptual mode. In a subgroup of 87 subjects, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and magnetoencephalography studies demonstrated a strong neural basis for both types of pitch perception irrespective of musical aptitude. Compared with f0 listeners, fSP listeners possessed a pronounced rightward, rather than leftward, asymmetry of gray matter volume and P50m activity within the pitch-sensitive lateral Heschl's gyrus. Our data link relative hemispheric lateralization with perceptual stimulus properties, whereas the absolute size of the Heschl's gyrus depends on musical aptitude.

  1. Department of Neurology, University Hospital Heidelberg, INF 400, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
  2. School of Health Sciences, Division of Medical Imaging, University of Liverpool, Johnston Building, The Quadrangle Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L69 3GB, UK.
  3. Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre (MARIARC), University of Liverpool, Pembroke Place, PO Box 147, Liverpool, L69 3BX, UK.
  4. Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology, Universiteit Maastricht, Postbus 616, 6200MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.
  5. Department of Physics, University of Heidelberg, Philosophenweg 12, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
  6. Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, University Road Highfield, Southampton S017 1BJ, UK.

Correspondence to: Peter Schneider1 e-mail:


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