Psychophysical Theory of Human Pitch Processing

We study the mechanisms of fundamental frequency (pitch) adaptation of songbird [1] and human vocalizations. Adaptation can be induced as a response to distortions of pitch feedback. When humans are exposed to real-time shifted fundamental frequency of their own vocalizations, they compensate partially for the experienced shift: the smaller the pitch shift, the larger is the relative pitch compensation. Our Bayesian theory of pitch processing [2] can explain these findings, it assumes that humans process the pitch of their voice optimally given knowledge of noise sources that affect sensory and motor systems.

Available Project
Many questions about pitch adaptation remain such as whether pitch variability modulates the magnitude of compensatory responses and whether the amount of compensation agrees with our simple theoretical prediction. We have open Semester and MSc projects for further developing and testing this theory. If successful, our work could be of broad relevance, such as enable new strategies for helping you to become a better singer (by inferring the dominating noise source in your pitch adaptation system and devising methods to reduce it).

[1] Canopoli A, Herbst JA, Hahnloser RHR. A higher sensory brain region is involved in reversing reinforcement-induced vocal changes in a songbird. J Neurosci. 2014 May;34(20):7018–26.
[2] Hahnloser RHR, Narula G. A Bayesian account of vocal adaptation to pitch-shifted auditory feedback. PLoS One. 2016;


Anja Zai, zaia (at)

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