Cortical Tracking of the Speech Envelope in Logopenic Variant Primary Progressive Aphasia.
ABSTRACT: Logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia (lvPPA) is a neurodegenerative language disorder primarily characterized by impaired phonological processing. Sentence repetition and comprehension deficits are observed in lvPPA and linked to impaired phonological working memory, but recent evidence also implicates impaired speech perception. Currently, neural encoding of the speech envelope, which forms the scaffolding for perception, is not clearly understood in lvPPA. We leveraged recent analytical advances in electrophysiology to examine speech envelope encoding in lvPPA. We assessed cortical tracking of the speech envelope and in-task comprehension of two spoken narratives in individuals with lvPPA (n = 10) and age-matched (n = 10) controls. Despite markedly reduced narrative comprehension relative to controls, individuals with lvPPA had increased cortical tracking of the speech envelope in theta oscillations, which track low-level features (e.g., syllables), but not delta oscillations, which track speech units that unfold across a longer time scale (e.g., words, phrases, prosody). This neural signature was highly correlated across narratives. Results indicate an increased reliance on acoustic cues during speech encoding. This may reflect inefficient encoding of bottom-up speech cues, likely as a consequence of dysfunctional temporoparietal cortex.
Project description:Perception of speech rhythm requires the auditory system to track temporal envelope fluctuations, which carry syllabic and stress information. Reduced sensitivity to rhythmic acoustic cues has been evidenced in children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), impeding syllabic parsing and speech decoding. Our study investigated whether these children experience specific difficulties processing fast rate speech as compared with typically developing (TD) children.Sixteen French children with SLI (8-13 years old) with mainly expressive phonological disorders and with preserved comprehension and 16 age-matched TD children performed a judgment task on sentences produced 1) at normal rate, 2) at fast rate or 3) time-compressed. Sensitivity index (d') to semantically incongruent sentence-final words was measured.Overall children with SLI perform significantly worse than TD children. Importantly, as revealed by the significant Group × Speech Rate interaction, children with SLI find it more challenging than TD children to process both naturally or artificially accelerated speech. The two groups do not significantly differ in normal rate speech processing.In agreement with rhythm-processing deficits in atypical language development, our results suggest that children with SLI face difficulties adjusting to rapid speech rate. These findings are interpreted in light of temporal sampling and prosodic phrasing frameworks and of oscillatory mechanisms underlying speech perception.
Project description:Language comprehension involves the simultaneous processing of information at the phonological, syntactic, and lexical level. We track these three distinct streams of information in the brain by using stochastic measures derived from computational language models to detect neural correlates of phoneme, part-of-speech, and word processing in an fMRI experiment. Probabilistic language models have proven to be useful tools for studying how language is processed as a sequence of symbols unfolding in time. Conditional probabilities between sequences of words are at the basis of probabilistic measures such as surprisal and perplexity which have been successfully used as predictors of several behavioural and neural correlates of sentence processing. Here we computed perplexity from sequences of words and their parts of speech, and their phonemic transcriptions. Brain activity time-locked to each word is regressed on the three model-derived measures. We observe that the brain keeps track of the statistical structure of lexical, syntactic and phonological information in distinct areas.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:Aphasia is one of the most disabling sequelae after stroke, occurring in 25%-40% of stroke survivors. However, there remains a lack of good evidence for the efficacy or mechanisms of speech comprehension rehabilitation. TRIAL DESIGN:This within-subjects trial tested two concurrent interventions in 20 patients with chronic aphasia with speech comprehension impairment following left hemisphere stroke: (1) phonological training using 'Earobics' software and (2) a pharmacological intervention using donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Donepezil was tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design using block randomisation with bias minimisation. METHODS:The primary outcome measure was speech comprehension score on the comprehensive aphasia test. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) with an established index of auditory perception, the mismatch negativity response, tested whether the therapies altered effective connectivity at the lower (primary) or higher (secondary) level of the auditory network. RESULTS:Phonological training improved speech comprehension abilities and was particularly effective for patients with severe deficits. No major adverse effects of donepezil were observed, but it had an unpredicted negative effect on speech comprehension. The MEG analysis demonstrated that phonological training increased synaptic gain in the left superior temporal gyrus (STG). Patients with more severe speech comprehension impairments also showed strengthening of bidirectional connections between the left and right STG. CONCLUSIONS:Phonological training resulted in a small but significant improvement in speech comprehension, whereas donepezil had a negative effect. The connectivity results indicated that training reshaped higher order phonological representations in the left STG and (in more severe patients) induced stronger interhemispheric transfer of information between higher levels of auditory cortex.Clinical trial registrationThis trial was registered with EudraCT (2005-004215-30, https://eudract.ema.europa.eu/) and ISRCTN (68939136, http://www.isrctn.com/).
Project description:Children with reading impairments have long been associated with impaired perception for rapidly presented acoustic stimuli and recently have shown deficits for slower features. It is not known whether impairments for low-frequency acoustic features negatively impact processing of speech in reading-impaired individuals. Here we provide neurophysiological evidence that poor readers have impaired representation of the speech envelope, the acoustical cue that provides syllable pattern information in speech. We measured cortical-evoked potentials in response to sentence stimuli and found that good readers indicated consistent right-hemisphere dominance in auditory cortex for all measures of speech envelope representation, including the precision, timing, and magnitude of cortical responses. Poor readers showed abnormal patterns of cerebral asymmetry for all measures of speech envelope representation. Moreover, cortical measures of speech envelope representation predicted up to 41% of the variability in standardized reading scores and 50% in measures of phonological processing across a wide range of abilities. Our findings strongly support a relationship between acoustic-level processing and higher-level language abilities, and are the first to link reading ability with cortical processing of low-frequency acoustic features in the speech signal. Our results also support the hypothesis that asymmetric routing between cerebral hemispheres represents an important mechanism for temporal encoding in the human auditory system, and the need for an expansion of the temporal processing hypothesis for reading disabilities to encompass impairments for a wider range of speech features than previously acknowledged.
Project description:A growing body of research suggests that intrinsic neuronal slow (<10 Hz) oscillations in auditory cortex appear to track incoming speech and other spectro-temporally complex auditory signals. Within this framework, several recent studies have identified critical-band temporal envelopes as the specific acoustic feature being reflected by the phase of these oscillations. However, how this alignment between speech acoustics and neural oscillations might underpin intelligibility is unclear. Here we test the hypothesis that the 'sharpness' of temporal fluctuations in the critical band envelope acts as a temporal cue to speech syllabic rate, driving delta-theta rhythms to track the stimulus and facilitate intelligibility. We interpret our findings as evidence that sharp events in the stimulus cause cortical rhythms to re-align and parse the stimulus into syllable-sized chunks for further decoding. Using magnetoencephalographic recordings, we show that by removing temporal fluctuations that occur at the syllabic rate, envelope-tracking activity is reduced. By artificially reinstating these temporal fluctuations, envelope-tracking activity is regained. These changes in tracking correlate with intelligibility of the stimulus. Together, the results suggest that the sharpness of fluctuations in the stimulus, as reflected in the cochlear output, drive oscillatory activity to track and entrain to the stimulus, at its syllabic rate. This process likely facilitates parsing of the stimulus into meaningful chunks appropriate for subsequent decoding, enhancing perception and intelligibility.
Project description:The pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) is engaged in speech comprehension under difficult circumstances such as poor acoustic signal quality or time-critical conditions. Previous studies found that left pre-SMA is activated when subjects listen to accelerated speech. Here, the functional role of pre-SMA was tested for accelerated speech comprehension by inducing a transient "virtual lesion" using continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS). Participants were tested (1) prior to (pre-baseline), (2) 10 min after (test condition for the cTBS effect), and (3) 60 min after stimulation (post-baseline) using a sentence repetition task (formant-synthesized at rates of 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 syllables/s). Speech comprehension was quantified by the percentage of correctly reproduced speech material. For high speech rates, subjects showed decreased performance after cTBS of pre-SMA. Regarding the error pattern, the number of incorrect words without any semantic or phonological similarity to the target context increased, while related words decreased. Thus, the transient impairment of pre-SMA seems to affect its inhibitory function that normally eliminates erroneous speech material prior to speaking or, in case of perception, prior to encoding into a semantically/pragmatically meaningful message.
Project description:Dyslexia is associated with impaired neural representation of the sound structure of words (phonology). The "phonological deficit" in dyslexia may arise in part from impaired speech rhythm perception, thought to depend on neural oscillatory phase-locking to slow amplitude modulation (AM) patterns in the speech envelope. Speech contains AM patterns at multiple temporal rates, and these different AM rates are associated with phonological units of different grain sizes, e.g., related to stress, syllables or phonemes. Here, we assess the ability of adults with dyslexia to use speech AMs to identify rhythm patterns (RPs). We study 3 important temporal rates: "Stress" (~2 Hz), "Syllable" (~4 Hz) and "Sub-beat" (reduced syllables, ~14 Hz). 21 dyslexics and 21 controls listened to nursery rhyme sentences that had been tone-vocoded using either single AM rates from the speech envelope (Stress only, Syllable only, Sub-beat only) or pairs of AM rates (Stress + Syllable, Syllable + Sub-beat). They were asked to use the acoustic rhythm of the stimulus to identity the original nursery rhyme sentence. The data showed that dyslexics were significantly poorer at detecting rhythm compared to controls when they had to utilize multi-rate temporal information from pairs of AMs (Stress + Syllable or Syllable + Sub-beat). These data suggest that dyslexia is associated with a reduced ability to utilize AMs <20 Hz for rhythm recognition. This perceptual deficit in utilizing AM patterns in speech could be underpinned by less efficient neuronal phase alignment and cross-frequency neuronal oscillatory synchronization in dyslexia. Dyslexics' perceptual difficulties in capturing the full spectro-temporal complexity of speech over multiple timescales could contribute to the development of impaired phonological representations for words, the cognitive hallmark of dyslexia across languages.
Project description:Speech comprehension relies on temporal cues contained in the speech envelope, and the auditory cortex has been implicated as playing a critical role in encoding this temporal information. We investigated auditory cortical responses to speech stimuli in subjects undergoing invasive electrophysiological monitoring for pharmacologically refractory epilepsy. Recordings were made from multicontact electrodes implanted in Heschl's gyrus (HG). Speech sentences, time compressed from 0.75 to 0.20 of natural speaking rate, elicited average evoked potentials (AEPs) and increases in event-related band power (ERBP) of cortical high-frequency (70-250 Hz) activity. Cortex of posteromedial HG, the presumed core of human auditory cortex, represented the envelope of speech stimuli in the AEP and ERBP. Envelope following in ERBP, but not in AEP, was evident in both language-dominant and -nondominant hemispheres for relatively high degrees of compression where speech was not comprehensible. Compared to posteromedial HG, responses from anterolateral HG-an auditory belt field-exhibited longer latencies, lower amplitudes, and little or no time locking to the speech envelope. The ability of the core auditory cortex to follow the temporal speech envelope over a wide range of speaking rates leads us to conclude that such capacity in itself is not a limiting factor for speech comprehension.
Project description:The most salient acoustic features in speech are the modulations in its intensity, captured by the amplitude envelope. Perceptually, the envelope is necessary for speech comprehension. Yet, the neural computations that represent the envelope and their linguistic implications are heavily debated. We used high-density intracranial recordings, while participants listened to speech, to determine how the envelope is represented in human speech cortical areas on the superior temporal gyrus (STG). We found that a well-defined zone in middle STG detects acoustic onset edges (local maxima in the envelope rate of change). Acoustic analyses demonstrated that timing of acoustic onset edges cues syllabic nucleus onsets, while their slope cues syllabic stress. Synthesized amplitude-modulated tone stimuli showed that steeper slopes elicited greater responses, confirming cortical encoding of amplitude change, not absolute amplitude. Overall, STG encoding of the timing and magnitude of acoustic onset edges underlies the perception of speech temporal structure.
Project description:Speech contains rich acoustic and linguistic information. Using highly controlled speech materials, previous studies have demonstrated that cortical activity is synchronous to the rhythms of perceived linguistic units, for example, words and phrases, on top of basic acoustic features, for example, the speech envelope. When listening to natural speech, it remains unclear, however, how cortical activity jointly encodes acoustic and linguistic information. Here we investigate the neural encoding of words using electroencephalography and observe neural activity synchronous to multi-syllabic words when participants naturally listen to narratives. An amplitude modulation (AM) cue for word rhythm enhances the word-level response, but the effect is only observed during passive listening. Furthermore, words and the AM cue are encoded by spatially separable neural responses that are differentially modulated by attention. These results suggest that bottom-up acoustic cues and top-down linguistic knowledge separately contribute to cortical encoding of linguistic units in spoken narratives.