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      The musician effect: does it persist under degraded pitch conditions of cochlear implant simulations?

      music perception, pitch processing, cochlear implant, speech perception, emotion identification, musician effect, music training

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          Abstract

          Cochlear implants (CIs) are auditory prostheses that restore hearing via electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. Compared to normal acoustic hearing, sounds transmitted through the CI are spectro-temporally degraded, causing difficulties in challenging listening tasks such as speech intelligibility in noise and perception of music. In normal hearing (NH), musicians have been shown to better perform than non-musicians in auditory processing and perception, especially for challenging listening tasks. This “musician effect” was attributed to better processing of pitch cues, as well as better overall auditory cognitive functioning in musicians. Does the musician effect persist when pitch cues are degraded, as it would be in signals transmitted through a CI? To answer this question, NH musicians and non-musicians were tested while listening to unprocessed signals or to signals processed by an acoustic CI simulation. The task increasingly depended on pitch perception: (1) speech intelligibility (words and sentences) in quiet or in noise, (2) vocal emotion identification, and (3) melodic contour identification (MCI). For speech perception, there was no musician effect with the unprocessed stimuli, and a small musician effect only for word identification in one noise condition, in the CI simulation. For emotion identification, there was a small musician effect for both. For MCI, there was a large musician effect for both. Overall, the effect was stronger as the importance of pitch in the listening task increased. This suggests that the musician effect may be more rooted in pitch perception, rather than in a global advantage in cognitive processing (in which musicians would have performed better in all tasks). The results further suggest that musical training before (and possibly after) implantation might offer some advantage in pitch processing that could partially benefit speech perception, and more strongly emotion and music perception.

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          Most cited references 56

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          The effects of music training in relation to brain plasticity have caused excitement, evident from the popularity of books on this topic among scientists and the general public. Neuroscience research has shown that music training leads to changes throughout the auditory system that prime musicians for listening challenges beyond music processing. This effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness. Therefore, the role of music in shaping individual development deserves consideration.
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            Nearly perfect speech recognition was observed under conditions of greatly reduced spectral information. Temporal envelopes of speech were extracted from broad frequency bands and were used to modulate noises of the same bandwidths. This manipulation preserved temporal envelope cues in each band but restricted the listener to severely degraded information on the distribution of spectral energy. The identification of consonants, vowels, and words in simple sentences improved markedly as the number of bands increased; high speech recognition performance was obtained with only three bands of modulated noise. Thus, the presentation of a dynamic temporal pattern in only a few broad spectral regions is sufficient for the recognition of speech.
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              A cochlear frequency-position function for several species--29 years later.

               Z. Greenwood (1990)
              Accurate cochlear frequency-position functions based on physiological data would facilitate the interpretation of physiological and psychoacoustic data within and across species. Such functions might aid in developing cochlear models, and cochlear coordinates could provide potentially useful spectral transforms of speech and other acoustic signals. In 1961, an almost-exponential function was developed (Greenwood, 1961b, 1974) by integrating an exponential function fitted to a subset of frequency resolution-integration estimates (critical bandwidths). The resulting frequency-position function was found to fit cochlear observations on human cadaver ears quite well and, with changes of constants, those on elephant, cow, guinea pig, rat, mouse, and chicken (Békésy, 1960), as well as in vivo (behavioral-anatomical) data on cats (Schucknecht, 1953). Since 1961, new mechanical and other physiological data have appeared on the human, cat, guinea pig, chinchilla, monkey, and gerbil. It is shown here that the newer extended data on human cadaver ears and from living animal preparations are quite well fit by the same basic function. The function essentially requires only empirical adjustment of a single parameter to set an upper frequency limit, while a "slope" parameter can be left constant if cochlear partition length is normalized to 1 or scaled if distance is specified in physical units. Constancy of slope and form in dead and living ears and across species increases the probability that the function fitting human cadaver data may apply as well to the living human ear. This prospect increases the function's value in plotting auditory data and in modeling concerned with speech and other bioacoustic signals, since it fits the available physiological data well and, consequently (if those data are correct), remains independent of, and an appropriate means to examine, psychoacoustic data and assumptions.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.3389/fnins.2014.00179
                4075350

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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