Human speech contains both auditory and visual components, processed by their respective sensory cortices. We test a simple model in which task-relevant speech information is enhanced during cortical processing. Visual speech is most important when the auditory component is uninformative. Therefore, the model predicts that visual cortex responses should be enhanced to visual-only (V) speech compared with audiovisual (AV) speech. We recorded neuronal activity as patients perceived auditory-only (A), V, and AV speech. Visual cortex showed strong increases in high-gamma band power and strong decreases in alpha-band power to V and AV speech. Consistent with the model prediction, gamma-band increases and alpha-band decreases were stronger for V speech. The model predicts that the uninformative nature of the auditory component (not simply its absence) is the critical factor, a prediction we tested in a second experiment in which visual speech was paired with auditory white noise. As predicted, visual speech with auditory noise showed enhanced visual cortex responses relative to AV speech. An examination of the anatomical locus of the effects showed that all visual areas, including primary visual cortex, showed enhanced responses. Visual cortex responses to speech are enhanced under circumstances when visual information is most important for comprehension.
Keywords: audiovisual; electrocorticography; high gamma; speech; visual cortex.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.