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      Exploring the Role of Brain Oscillations in Speech Perception in Noise: Intelligibility of Isochronously Retimed Speech

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          A growing body of evidence shows that brain oscillations track speech. This mechanism is thought to maximize processing efficiency by allocating resources to important speech information, effectively parsing speech into units of appropriate granularity for further decoding. However, some aspects of this mechanism remain unclear. First, while periodicity is an intrinsic property of this physiological mechanism, speech is only quasi-periodic, so it is not clear whether periodicity would present an advantage in processing. Second, it is still a matter of debate which aspect of speech triggers or maintains cortical entrainment, from bottom-up cues such as fluctuations of the amplitude envelope of speech to higher level linguistic cues such as syntactic structure. We present data from a behavioral experiment assessing the effect of isochronous retiming of speech on speech perception in noise. Two types of anchor points were defined for retiming speech, namely syllable onsets and amplitude envelope peaks. For each anchor point type, retiming was implemented at two hierarchical levels, a slow time scale around 2.5 Hz and a fast time scale around 4 Hz. Results show that while any temporal distortion resulted in reduced speech intelligibility, isochronous speech anchored to P-centers (approximated by stressed syllable vowel onsets) was significantly more intelligible than a matched anisochronous retiming, suggesting a facilitative role of periodicity defined on linguistically motivated units in processing speech in noise.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Phase patterns of neuronal responses reliably discriminate speech in human auditory cortex.

          How natural speech is represented in the auditory cortex constitutes a major challenge for cognitive neuroscience. Although many single-unit and neuroimaging studies have yielded valuable insights about the processing of speech and matched complex sounds, the mechanisms underlying the analysis of speech dynamics in human auditory cortex remain largely unknown. Here, we show that the phase pattern of theta band (4-8 Hz) responses recorded from human auditory cortex with magnetoencephalography (MEG) reliably tracks and discriminates spoken sentences and that this discrimination ability is correlated with speech intelligibility. The findings suggest that an approximately 200 ms temporal window (period of theta oscillation) segments the incoming speech signal, resetting and sliding to track speech dynamics. This hypothesized mechanism for cortical speech analysis is based on the stimulus-induced modulation of inherent cortical rhythms and provides further evidence implicating the syllable as a computational primitive for the representation of spoken language.
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            An integrated theory of language production and comprehension.

            Currently, production and comprehension are regarded as quite distinct in accounts of language processing. In rejecting this dichotomy, we instead assert that producing and understanding are interwoven, and that this interweaving is what enables people to predict themselves and each other. We start by noting that production and comprehension are forms of action and action perception. We then consider the evidence for interweaving in action, action perception, and joint action, and explain such evidence in terms of prediction. Specifically, we assume that actors construct forward models of their actions before they execute those actions, and that perceivers of others' actions covertly imitate those actions, then construct forward models of those actions. We use these accounts of action, action perception, and joint action to develop accounts of production, comprehension, and interactive language. Importantly, they incorporate well-defined levels of linguistic representation (such as semantics, syntax, and phonology). We show (a) how speakers and comprehenders use covert imitation and forward modeling to make predictions at these levels of representation, (b) how they interweave production and comprehension processes, and (c) how they use these predictions to monitor the upcoming utterances. We show how these accounts explain a range of behavioral and neuroscientific data on language processing and discuss some of the implications of our proposal.
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              Resonance, oscillation and the intrinsic frequency preferences of neurons.

               B Hutcheon,  Y. Yarom (2000)
              The realization that different behavioural and perceptual states of the brain are associated with different brain rhythms has sparked growing interest in the oscillatory behaviours of neurons. Recent research has uncovered a close association between electrical oscillations and resonance in neurons. Resonance is an easily measurable property that describes the ability of neurons to respond selectively to inputs at preferred frequencies. A variety of ionic mechanisms support resonance and oscillation in neurons. Understanding the basic principles involved in the production of resonance allows for a simplified classification of these mechanisms. The characterization of resonance and frequency preference captures those essential properties of neurons that can serve as a substrate for coordinating network activity around a particular frequency in the brain.

                Author and article information

                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                31 August 2016
                : 10
                MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University Penrith, NSW, Australia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Johanna Maria Rimmele, Max-Planck-Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Germany

                Reviewed by: Nai Ding, Zhejiang University, China; Keith B. Doelling, New York University, USA

                *Correspondence: Vincent Aubanel v.aubanel@ 123456westernsydney.edu.au
                Copyright © 2016 Aubanel, Davis and Kim.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 2, Equations: 3, References: 56, Pages: 11, Words: 8531
                Funded by: Australian Research Council 10.13039/501100000923
                Award ID: DP130104447
                Original Research


                syllable, isochrony, temporal modification, speech intelligibility, brain oscillations


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