Electrophysiological and hemodynamic mismatch responses in rats listening to human speech syllables

PLoS One. 2017 Mar 14;12(3):e0173801. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173801. eCollection 2017.


Speech is a complex auditory stimulus which is processed according to several time-scales. Whereas consonant discrimination is required to resolve rapid acoustic events, voice perception relies on slower cues. Humans, right from preterm ages, are particularly efficient to encode temporal cues. To compare the capacities of preterms to those observed in other mammals, we tested anesthetized adult rats by using exactly the same paradigm as that used in preterm neonates. We simultaneously recorded neural (using ECoG) and hemodynamic responses (using fNIRS) to series of human speech syllables and investigated the brain response to a change of consonant (ba vs. ga) and to a change of voice (male vs. female). Both methods revealed concordant results, although ECoG measures were more sensitive than fNIRS. Responses to syllables were bilateral, but with marked right-hemispheric lateralization. Responses to voice changes were observed with both methods, while only ECoG was sensitive to consonant changes. These results suggest that rats more effectively processed the speech envelope than fine temporal cues in contrast with human preterm neonates, in whom the opposite effects were observed. Cross-species comparisons constitute a very valuable tool to define the singularities of the human brain and species-specific bias that may help human infants to learn their native language.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Speech*

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.