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Research Paper

January 8, 2016

BME PhD student researchers Xindong Song and Yueqi Guo uncover evidence that pitch perception evolved in primate

BME graduate student Xindong Song

Xindong Song

The ability to perceive the sound quality known as “pitch” can no longer be listed as unique to humans. Research published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “Complex pitch perception mechanisms are shared by humans and a New World monkey,” infers that aspects of pitch perception may have evolved more than 40 million years — enabling the songlike vocalization by the marmoset monkey. The paper appeared on the cover of PNAS, Issue No. 3, January 19, 2016.

BME graduate student Xindong Song

The Johns Hopkins research authors include BME graduate students Xindong Song (lead author) and Yueqi Guo, BME Research Associate Michael Osmanski, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Xiaoqin Wang.

Building on Dr. Wang's previous research previous research that revealed regions in the marmoset brain responded to pitch in a way similar to that the human brain, the research team focused on finding behavioral evidence of pitch perception. Through a series of hearing tests, with waterspout licks as a readout, Wang’s team, led by graduate student Xindong Song, determined that marmosets share the three specialized features of pitch perception once thought to be unique to humans. Learn more