Exploring the role of brain oscillations in speech perception in noise: Intelligibility of isochronously retimed speech

Vincent Aubanel, Chris Wayne Davis, Jeesun Kim

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number430
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberAUG2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2016


  • Brain oscillations
  • Isochrony
  • Speech intelligibility
  • Syllable
  • Temporal modification


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