Left-hemisphere activation is associated with enhanced vocal pitch error detection in musicians with absolute pitch

Roozbeh Behroozmand, Nadine Ibrahim, Oleg Korzyukov, Donald A. Robin, Charles R. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The ability to process auditory feedback for vocal pitch control is crucial during speaking and singing. Previous studies have suggested that musicians with absolute pitch (AP) develop specialized left-hemisphere mechanisms for pitch processing. The present study adopted an auditory feedback pitch perturbation paradigm combined with ERP recordings to test the hypothesis whether the neural mechanisms of the left-hemisphere enhance vocal pitch error detection and control in AP musicians compared with relative pitch (RP) musicians and non-musicians (NM). Results showed a stronger N1 response to pitch-shifted voice feedback in the right-hemisphere for both AP and RP musicians compared with the NM group. However, the left-hemisphere P2 component activation was greater in AP and RP musicians compared with NMs and also for the AP compared with RP musicians. The NM group was slower in generating compensatory vocal reactions to feedback pitch perturbation compared with musicians, and they failed to re-adjust their vocal pitch after the feedback perturbation was removed. These findings suggest that in the earlier stages of cortical neural processing, the right hemisphere is more active in musicians for detecting pitch changes in voice feedback. In the later stages, the left-hemisphere is more active during the processing of auditory feedback for vocal motor control and seems to involve specialized mechanisms that facilitate pitch processing in the AP compared with RP musicians. These findings indicate that the left hemisphere mechanisms of AP ability are associated with improved auditory feedback pitch processing during vocal pitch control in tasks such as speaking or singing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-108
Number of pages12
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Absolute pitch
  • Auditory feedback
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs)
  • Pitch processing
  • Relative pitch
  • Vocal motor control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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