A positron emission tomography study of the neural basis of informational and energetic masking effects in speech perception

J Acoust Soc Am. 2004 Feb;115(2):813-21. doi: 10.1121/1.1639336.


Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to investigate the neural basis of the comprehension of speech in unmodulated noise ("energetic" masking, dominated by effects at the auditory periphery), and when presented with another speaker ("informational" masking, dominated by more central effects). Each type of signal was presented at four different signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) (+3, 0, -3, -6 dB for the speech-in-speech, +6, +3, 0, -3 dB for the speech-in-noise), with listeners instructed to listen for meaning to the target speaker. Consistent with behavioral studies, there was SNR-dependent activation associated with the comprehension of speech in noise, with no SNR-dependent activity for the comprehension of speech-in-speech (at low or negative SNRs). There was, in addition, activation in bilateral superior temporal gyri which was associated with the informational masking condition. The extent to which this activation of classical "speech" areas of the temporal lobes might delineate the neural basis of the informational masking is considered, as is the relationship of these findings to the interfering effects of unattended speech and sound on more explicit working memory tasks. This study is a novel demonstration of candidate neural systems involved in the perception of speech in noisy environments, and of the processing of multiple speakers in the dorso-lateral temporal lobes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Loudness Perception / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Perceptual Masking / physiology*
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Temporal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*