Intracerebral Evoked Potentials in Pitch Perception Reveal a Functional Asymmetry of the Human Auditory Cortex


Address for correspondence: Catherine Liégeois-Chauvel, INSERM EPI 9926, Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie et Neuropsychologie, Faculté de médecine, 27 Bd. Jean Moulin. 13005 Marseille, France. Voice: +33 4 91 32 44 63; fax: +33 4 91 78 99 14;


Abstract: One acoustic feature that plays an important role in pitch perception is frequency. Studies on the processing of frequency in the human and animal brain have shown that the auditory cortex is tonotopically organized: low frequencies are represented laterally whereas high frequencies are represented medially. To date, the study of the functional organization of the human auditory cortex in the processing of frequency has been limited to the use of either scalp-recorded auditory evoked potentials (AEPs), which have relatively poor spatial resolving power, or functional imagery techniques, which have poor temporal resolving power. The present study uses intracerebrally recorded AEPs to explore this topic in the primary and secondary auditory cortices of both hemispheres of the human brain. Recordings were carried out in 45 adult patients with drug-resistant partial seizures. In the right hemisphere, clear spectrally organized tonotopic maps were observed with distinct separations between different frequency-processing regions. AEPs for high frequencies were recorded medially, whereas AEPs for low frequencies were recorded laterally. In the left hemisphere, however, this tonotopic organization was less evident, with different regions involved in the processing of a range of frequencies. The hemisphere-related difference in the processing of tonal frequency is discussed in relation to pitch perception.