Masking by harmonic complexes in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)

Marjorie R. Leek, Micheal L. Dent, Robert J. Dooling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In humans, masking by harmonic complexes is dependent not only on the frequency content of the masker, but also its phase spectrum. Complexes that have highly modulated temporal waveforms due to the selection of their component phases usually provide less masking than those with flatter temporal envelopes. Moreover, harmonic complexes that are created with negative Schroeder phases (component phases monotonically decreasing with increasing harmonic frequency) may provide more masking than those created with positive schroeder phases (monotonically increasing phase), even though both temporal envelopes are equally flat. To date, there has been little comparative work on the masking effectiveness of harmonic complexes. Using operant conditioning and the method of constant stimuli, masking of pure tones by harmonic complexes was examined in budgerigars at several different masker levels for complexes constructed with two different fundamental frequencies. In contrast to humans, thresholds in budgerigars differed very little for the two Schroeder-phase waveforms. Moreover, when there was a difference in masking by these two waveforms, the positive Schroeder was the more effective masker - the reverse of that described for humans. Control experiments showed that phase selection was relevant to the masking ability of harmonic complexes in budgerigars. Release from masking occurred when the components were in coherent phase, compared with a complex with random phases selected for each component. It is suggested that these psychoacoustic differences may emerge from structural and functional differences between the avian and mammalian peripheral auditory systems involving traveling wave mechanics and spectral tuning characteristics. (C) 2000 Acoustical Society of America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1737-1744
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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