JournalLanguage and Communication

Neural Entrainment Determines the Words We Hear

Anne Kosem

Low-frequency neural entrainment to rhythmic input has been hypothesized as a canonical mechanism that shapes sensory perception in time. Neural entrainment is deemed particularly relevant for speech analysis, as it would contribute to the extraction of discrete linguistic elements from continuous acoustic signals. However, its causal influence in speech perception has been difficult to establish. Here, we provide evidence that oscillations build temporal predictions about the duration of speech tokens that affect perception. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), we studied neural dynamics during listening to sentences that changed in speech rate. Weobserved neural entrainment to preceding speech rhythms persisting for several cycles after the change in rate. The sustained entrainment was associated with changes in the perceived duration of the last word’s vowel, resulting in the perception of words with different meanings. These findings support oscillatory models of speech processing, suggesting that neural oscillations actively shape speech perception.

Kösem, A., Bosker, H. R., Takashima, A., Meyer, A. S., Jensen, O., & Hagoort, P. (2018). Neural entrainment determines the words we hear. Current Biology. Advance online publication.

About the the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics – Neurobiology of Language Department

What is the neurobiological infrastructure for the uniquely human capacity for language?
The focus of the Neurobiology of Language Department is on the study of language production, language comprehension, and language acquisition from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. This includes using neuroimaging, behavioural and Virtual Reality techniques to investigate the language system and its neural underpinnings. Research facilities at the MPI include a high-density EEG lab, a Virtual Reality lab, and several behavioural labs. With part of the department stationed at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, we also have access to a whole-head 275 channel MEG system, MRI-scanners at 1.5, 3 and 7 Tesla, a TMS-lab, and several other EEG labs.

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