Integration of Consonant and Pitch Processing as Revealed by the Absence of Additivity in Mismatch Negativity


Consonants, unlike vowels, are thought to be speech specific and therefore no interactions would be expected between consonants and pitch, a basic element for musical tones. The present study used an electrophysiological approach to investigate whether, contrary to this view, there is integrative processing of consonants and pitch by measuring additivity of changes in the mismatch negativity (MMN) of evoked potentials. The MMN is elicited by discriminable variations occurring in a sequence of repetitive, homogeneous sounds. In the experiment, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants heard frequently sung consonant-vowel syllables and rare stimuli deviating in either consonant identity only, pitch only, or in both dimensions. Every type of deviation elicited a reliable MMN. As expected, the two single-deviant MMNs had similar amplitudes, but that of the double-deviant MMN was also not significantly different from them. This absence of additivity in the double-deviant MMN suggests that consonant and pitch variations are processed, at least at a pre-attentive level, in an integrated rather than independent way. Domain-specificity of consonants may depend on higher-level processes in the hierarchy of speech perception.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038289

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@inproceedings{Gao2012IntegrationOC, title={Integration of Consonant and Pitch Processing as Revealed by the Absence of Additivity in Mismatch Negativity}, author={Shan Gao and Jiehui Hu and Diankun Gong and Sifan Chen and Keith M. Kendrick and Dezhong Yao}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2012} }