The neural processing of masked speech: evidence for different mechanisms in the left and right temporal lobes

J Acoust Soc Am. 2009 Mar;125(3):1737-43. doi: 10.1121/1.3050255.


It has been previously demonstrated that extensive activation in the dorsolateral temporal lobes associated with masking a speech target with a speech masker, consistent with the hypothesis that competition for central auditory processes is an important factor in informational masking. Here, masking from speech and two additional maskers derived from the original speech were investigated. One of these is spectrally rotated speech, which is unintelligible and has a similar (inverted) spectrotemporal profile to speech. The authors also controlled for the possibility of "glimpsing" of the target signal during modulated masking sounds by using speech-modulated noise as a masker in a baseline condition. Functional imaging results reveal that masking speech with speech leads to bilateral superior temporal gyrus (STG) activation relative to a speech-in-noise baseline, while masking speech with spectrally rotated speech leads solely to right STG activation relative to the baseline. This result is discussed in terms of hemispheric asymmetries for speech perception, and interpreted as showing that masking effects can arise through two parallel neural systems, in the left and right temporal lobes. This has implications for the competition for resources caused by speech and rotated speech maskers, and may illuminate some of the mechanisms involved in informational masking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise
  • Perceptual Masking*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Speech Perception*
  • Temporal Lobe / metabolism*