My Little Grey Cells in (an) Audition

The topic of this week was the auditory system. The basic structure of the ear was somehow familiar in Finnish but the terms were new in English and Latin. The mechanism of hearing and the auditory system was basically completely new for both of us, and it was very interesting to learn about it and understand this day-to-day phenomena in practise. The sound localization ability is also very fascinating. The basic idea that both ears are needed for horizontal localization was familiar, but it is incredible that our brain can recognize the interaural time and intensity differences so well that even a 2 degree localization difference can be recognized. The vertical localization was not familiar, and it was interesting to learn that the structure of the pinna is important in that, and that only one ear is enough for sufficient localization. Overall, it was interesting to learn more about the sound localization, especially because Maaria has lived her whole life with a person who is deaf in one ear and knows the practical issues it generates, but has not known the physiological explanations. The lecture also covered audiovisual integration. It was interesting to learn how the brain believes the visual input more than auditory in conflict situations and alters the interpretation to match with the visual input.

It was fascinating to learn about how the different frequencies are heard and understood. We have both played different instruments, so music is very important to us, and thus we found it especially interesting to learn about the mechanisms and principles behind hearing related to music. We have been wondering already before this course, what the neurological reason is for some people being able to sing in tune and many people cannot. These people are not truly tone-deaf, but while being able to hear the differences in melodies they cannot sing melodies completely correctly or together with other people. After searching the internet Maaria found an article on the topic called Poor-pitch singing in the absence of “tone-deafness”, which provided evidence for their hypothesis that poor-pitch singing results from sensorimotor “mistranslation” during imitation, i.e. the auditory representations of pitch are mapped onto incorrect motor representations for phonation. The poor-singer then might have in his/her mind the correct pitch, but when it is produced the result is not the same and correct, because of the wrong wiring of the brain to produce that pitch. The singer might hear that the result was not correct but cannot correct it.

Someone also linked the article Social Pleasures of Music in the lecture chat. This was an interesting article about the emotional and social aspects of music and how the brain activation is very similar to social bonding. All in all, the topic of this week was very interesting because hearing is so important in our everyday lives and also strongly connected to topics important for us. Therefore, it was also extremely interesting to learn the basics and apply these to the topics that interest us, such as music.


Pfordresher, Peter & Brown, Steven. (2007). Poor-Pitch Singing in the Absence of “Tone Deafness”. Music Perception – MUSIC PERCEPT. 25. 95-115. 10.1525/mp.2007.25.2.95.

Nummenmaa, L., Putkinen, V., & Sams, M. (2020). Social Pleasures of Music. DOI: 10.31234/

Posted by Inka Lehtimäki

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