Timbre-independent extraction of pitch in newborn infants

Gábor P. Háden, Gábor Stefanics, Martin D. Vestergaard, Susan L. Denham, István Sziller, István Winkler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to separate pitch from other spectral sound features, such as timbre, is an important prerequisite of veridical auditory perception underlying speech acquisition and music cognition. The current study investigated whether or not newborn infants generalize pitch across different timbres. Perceived resonator size is an aspect of timbre that informs the listener about the size of the sound source, a cue that may be important already at birth. Therefore, detection of infrequent pitch changes was tested by recording event-related brain potentials in healthy newborn infants to frequent standard and infrequent pitch-deviant sounds while the perceived resonator size of all sounds was randomly varied. The elicitation of an early negative and a later positive discriminative response by deviant sounds demonstrated that the neonate auditory system represents pitch separately from timbre, thus showing advanced pitch processing capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-74
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009



  • Development
  • Event-related brain potentials (ERP)
  • Mismatch negativity (MMN)
  • Neonates
  • Perceived resonator size
  • Pitch processing
  • Timbre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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