Plasticity in the human speech motor system drives changes in speech perception

J Neurosci. 2014 Jul 30;34(31):10339-46. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0108-14.2014.


Recent studies of human speech motor learning suggest that learning is accompanied by changes in auditory perception. But what drives the perceptual change? Is it a consequence of changes in the motor system? Or is it a result of sensory inflow during learning? Here, subjects participated in a speech motor-learning task involving adaptation to altered auditory feedback and they were subsequently tested for perceptual change. In two separate experiments, involving two different auditory perceptual continua, we show that changes in the speech motor system that accompany learning drive changes in auditory speech perception. Specifically, we obtained changes in speech perception when adaptation to altered auditory feedback led to speech production that fell into the phonetic range of the speech perceptual tests. However, a similar change in perception was not observed when the auditory feedback that subjects' received during learning fell into the phonetic range of the perceptual tests. This indicates that the central motor outflow associated with vocal sensorimotor adaptation drives changes to the perceptual classification of speech sounds.

Keywords: action; motor learning; perception; plasticity; speech.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Psychoacoustics
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Vocabulary
  • Young Adult