Can Temporal Fine Structure and Temporal Envelope be Considered Independently for Pitch Perception?

Nicolas Grimault

In psychoacoustics, works on pitch perception attempt to distinguish between envelope and fine structure cues that are generally viewed as independent and separated using a Hilbert transform. To empirically distinguish between envelope and fine structure cues in pitch perception experiments, a dedicated signal has been proposed. This signal is an unresolved harmonic complex tones with all harmonics shifted by the same amount of Hz. As the frequency distance between adjacent components is regular and identical than in the original harmonic complex tone, such a signal has the same envelope but a different fine structure. So, any perceptual difference between these signals is interpreted as a fine structure based percept. Here, as illustrated by very basic simulations, I suggest that this orthogonal point of view that is generally admitted could be a conceptual error. In fact, neither the fine structure nor the envelope is required to be fully encoded to explain pitch perception. Sufficient information is conveyed by the peaks in the fine structure that are located nearby a maximum of the envelope. Envelope and fine structure could then be in perpetual interaction and the pitch would be conveyed by “the fine structure under envelope”. Moreover, as the temporal delay between peaks of interest is rather longer than the delay between two adjacent peaks of the fine structure, such a mechanism would be much less constrained by the phase locking limitation of the auditory system. Several data from the literature are discussed from this new conceptual point of view.