Right hemisphere specialization for intensity discrimination of musical and speech sounds

Alfredo Brancucci, Claudio Babiloni, Paolo Maria Rossini, Gian Luca Romani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sound intensity is the primary and most elementary feature of auditory signals. Its discrimination plays a fundamental role in different behaviours related to auditory perception such as sound source localization, motion detection, and recognition of speech sounds. This study was aimed at investigating hemispheric asymmetries for processing intensity of complex tones and consonant-vowel syllables. Forty-four right-handed non-musicians were presented with two dichotic matching-to-sample tests with focused attention: one with complex tones of different intensities (musical test) and the other with consonant-vowel syllables of different intensities (speech test). Intensity differences (60, 70, and 80 dBA) were obtained by altering the gain of a synthesized harmonic tone (260 Hz fundamental frequency) and of a consonant-vowel syllable (/ba/) recorded from a natural voice. Dependent variables were accuracy and reaction time. Results showed a significant clear-cut left ear advantage in both tests for both dependent variables. A monaural control experiment ruled out possible attentional biases. This study provides behavioural evidence of a right hemisphere specialization for the perception of the intensity of musical and speech sounds in healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1916-1923
Number of pages8
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • (Non-)verbal sounds
  • Complex tones
  • Consonant-vowel syllables
  • Dichotic listening
  • Left ear advantage
  • Loudness
  • Right hemisphere
  • Sound intensity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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