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Title: The neural basis of musical consonance
Author: Bones, Oliver
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 8409
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2014
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Three studies were designed to determine the relation between subcortical neural temporal coding and the perception of musical consonance. Consonance describes the pleasing perception of resolution and stability that occurs when musical notes with simple frequency ratios are combined. Recent work suggests that consonance is likely to be driven by the perception of ‘harmonicity’, i.e. the extent to which the frequency components of the combined spectrum of two or more notes share a common fundamental frequency and therefore resemble a single complex tone (McDermott et al, 2010, Curr Biol). The publication in Chapter 3 is a paper describing a method for measuring the harmonicity of neural phase locking represented by the frequency-following response (FFR). The FFR is a scalp-recorded auditory evoked potential, generated by neural phase locking and named from the characteristic peaks in the waveform with periods corresponding to the frequencies present in the fine structure and envelope of the stimulus. The studies in Chapters 4 and 5 demonstrate that this method predicts individual differences in the perception of consonance in young normal-hearing listeners, both with and without musical experience. The results of the study in Chapter 4 also demonstrate that phase locking to distortion products resulting from monaural cochlear interactions which enhance the harmonicity of the FFR may also increase the perceived pleasantness of consonant combinations of notes. The results of the study in Chapter 5 suggest that the FFR to two-note chords consisting of frequencies below 2500 Hz is likely to be generated in part by a basal region of the cochlea tuned to above this frequency range. The results of this study also demonstrate that the effects of high-frequency masking noise can be accounted for by a model of a saturating inner hair-cell receptor potential. Finally, the study in Chapter 6 demonstrates that age is related to a decline in the distinction between the representation of the harmonicity of consonant and dissonant dyads in the FFR, concurrent with a decline in the perceptual distinction between the pleasantness of consonant and dissonant dyads. Overall the results of the studies in this thesis provide evidence that consonance perception can be explained in part by subcortical neural temporal coding, and that age-related declines in temporal coding may underlie a decline in the perception of consonance.
Supervisor: Plack, Chris; Hopkins, Kathryn Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Consonance ; Harmonicity ; Frequency-following response ; Brainstem