How musical experience affects tone perception efficiency by musicians of tonal and non-tonal speakers?

Si Chen, Yiqing Zhu, Ratree Wayland, Yike Yang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose To investigate if, regardless of language background (tonal or non-tonal), musicians may show stronger CP than non-musicians; To examine if native speakers of English (English or non-tonal musicians henceforth) or Mandarin Chinese (Mandarin or tonal musicians henceforth) can better accommodate multiple functions of the same acoustic cue and if musicians’ sensitivity to pitch of lexical tones comes at the cost of slower processing. Method English and Mandarin Musicians and non-musicians performed a categorical identification and a discrimination task on rising and falling continua of fundamental frequency on two vowels with 9 duration values. Results Non-tonal musicians exhibited significantly stronger categorical perception of pitch contour than non-tonal non-musicians. However, tonal musicians did not consistently perceive the two types of pitch directions more categorically than tonal non-musicians. Both tonal and non-tonal musicians also benefited more from increasing stimulus duration in processing pitch changes than non-musicians and they generally require less time for pitch processing. Musicians were also more sensitive to intrinsic F0 in pitch perception and differences of pitch types. Conclusion The effect of musical training strengthens categorical perception more consistently in non-tonal speakers than tonal speakers. Overall, musicians benefit more from increased stimulus duration, due perhaps to their greater sensitivity to temporal information, thus allowing them to be better at forming a more robust auditory representation and matching sounds to internalized memory templates. Musicians also attended more to acoustic details such as intrinsic F0 and pitch types in pitch processing, and yet, overall, their categorization of pitch was not compromised by traces of these acoustic details from their auditory short-term working memory. These findings may lead to a better understanding of pitch perception deficits in special populations, particularly among individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0232514
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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