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Listening in Naturalistic Scenes: What Can Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy and Intersubject Correlation Analysis Tell Us About the Underlying Brain Activity?


ABSTRACT: Listening to speech in the noisy conditions of everyday life can be effortful, reflecting the increased cognitive workload involved in extracting meaning from a degraded acoustic signal. Studying the underlying neural processes has the potential to provide mechanistic insight into why listening is effortful under certain conditions. In a move toward studying listening effort under ecologically relevant conditions, we used the silent and flexible neuroimaging technique functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to examine brain activity during attentive listening to speech in naturalistic scenes. Thirty normally hearing participants listened to a series of narratives continuously varying in acoustic difficulty while undergoing fNIRS imaging. Participants then listened to another set of closely matched narratives and rated perceived effort and intelligibility for each scene. As expected, self-reported effort generally increased with worsening signal-to-noise ratio. After controlling for better-ear signal-to-noise ratio, perceived effort was greater in scenes that contained competing speech than in those that did not, potentially reflecting an additional cognitive cost of overcoming informational masking. We analyzed the fNIRS data using intersubject correlation, a data-driven approach suitable for analyzing data collected under naturalistic conditions. Significant intersubject correlation was seen in the bilateral auditory cortices and in a range of channels across the prefrontal cortex. The involvement of prefrontal regions is consistent with the notion that higher order cognitive processes are engaged during attentive listening to speech in complex real-world conditions. However, further research is needed to elucidate the relationship between perceived listening effort and activity in these extended cortical networks.

SUBMITTER: Rowland SC 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6198387 | BioStudies | 2018-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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