"Soundmorphing": A new approach to studying speech perception in humans

Research Area: Research Year: 2005
Type of Publication: Article
Authors: Specht, Karsten; Rimol, L M; Reul, J; Hugdahl, Kenneth
A problem in current studies of brain activation in speech perception is that most studies use stimuli that are sampled from different categories. This study presents a new approach in creating acoustic stimuli by filtering real words in different ways, thus this enables one to 'morph' the sounds gradually from something like tones to real words while preserving temporal characteristics ("soundmorphing"). This will make it possible to explore steps between tone and speech processing on a gradual scale. This study aimed to investigate more closely the network, involved in the perception of speech and the decoding of auditory (speech-)stimuli. Sets of auditory stimuli were created by dividing real words into several frequency-bands and creating a randomised rearrangement of these components. Four different sets of stimuli were used, containing 1, 2, 3 or 4 frequency bands (total range: 0-2500 Hz). Only the latter one contained intelligible words. During the fMRI session, these four trial types were presented pseudo-randomised. In all conditions, significant activations of auditory cortex were observed. The number of activated voxels and their significance increased over the four trial types. In addition, Broca's area, SMA, left thalamus, and right cerebellum were activated in the most complex and most speech-like condition. Comparing these complexes with the tone-like trials, only the left auditory cortex, left SMA, and cingulate gyrus became significant. These activations reflect the bilateral processing of the auditory stimuli, but only the left temporal areas demonstrated an increasing BOLD response with an increasing number of presented frequency components.
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