Discriminating Male and Female Voices: Differentiating Pitch and Gender
Gender is salient, socially critical information obtained from faces and voices, yet the brain processes underlying gender discrimination have not been well studied. We investigated neural correlates of gender processing of voices in two ERP studies. In the first, ERP differences were seen between female and male voices starting at 87 ms, in both spatial–temporal and peak analyses, particularly the fronto-central N1 and P2. As pitch differences may drive gender differences, the second study used normal, high- and low-pitch voices. The results of these studies suggested that differences in pitch produced early effects (27–63 ms). Gender effects were seen on N1 (120 ms) with implicit pitch processing (study 1), but were not seen with manipulations of pitch (study 2), demonstrating that N1 was modulated by attention. P2 (between 170 and 230 ms) discriminated male from female voices, independent of pitch. Thus, these data show that there are two stages in voice gender processing; a very early pitch or frequency discrimination and a later more accurate determination of gender at the P2 latency.
KeywordsERPs Voice Auditory Frequency N1 P2
Marianne Latinus gratefully acknowledges the salary support from the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale. We thank Dr. Nancy J. Lobaugh for her generosity in allowing us full access to her ERP lab, and the help provided with the studies by Dr. Lobaugh and Erin Gibson. The authors also want to thank Dr. Rufin VanRullen for constructive comments on the manuscript.
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