An early perceptual locus of absolute pitch

Vince S.H. NGAN, Leo Y.T. CHEUNG, Hezul T.Y. NG, Ken H.M. YIP, Yetta Kwailing WONG*, Alan C.N. WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Absolute pitch (AP) refers to the naming of musical tone without external reference. The influential two-component model states that AP is limited by the late-emerging pitch labeling process only and not the earlier perceptual and memory processes. Over the years, however, support for this model at the neural level has been mixed with various methodological limitations. Here, the electroencephalography responses of 27 AP possessors and 27 non-AP possessors were recorded. During both name verification and passive listening, event-related potential analyses showed a difference between AP and non-AP possessors at about 200 ms in their response toward tones compared with noise stimuli. Multivariate pattern analyses suggested that pitch naming was subserved by a series of transient processes for the first 250 ms, followed by a stage-like process for both AP and non-AP possessors with no group differences between them. These findings are inconsistent with the predictions of the two-component model, and instead suggest the existence of an early perceptual locus of AP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14170
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare no potential conflict of interest associated with this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Society for Psychophysiological Research.


  • absolute pitch
  • auditory ERP
  • brain decoding
  • pitch perception


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