Speech Intelligibility Predicted from Neural Entrainment of the Speech Envelope

J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2018 Apr;19(2):181-191. doi: 10.1007/s10162-018-0654-z. Epub 2018 Feb 20.


Speech intelligibility is currently measured by scoring how well a person can identify a speech signal. The results of such behavioral measures reflect neural processing of the speech signal, but are also influenced by language processing, motivation, and memory. Very often, electrophysiological measures of hearing give insight in the neural processing of sound. However, in most methods, non-speech stimuli are used, making it hard to relate the results to behavioral measures of speech intelligibility. The use of natural running speech as a stimulus in electrophysiological measures of hearing is a paradigm shift which allows to bridge the gap between behavioral and electrophysiological measures. Here, by decoding the speech envelope from the electroencephalogram, and correlating it with the stimulus envelope, we demonstrate an electrophysiological measure of neural processing of running speech. We show that behaviorally measured speech intelligibility is strongly correlated with our electrophysiological measure. Our results pave the way towards an objective and automatic way of assessing neural processing of speech presented through auditory prostheses, reducing confounds such as attention and cognitive capabilities. We anticipate that our electrophysiological measure will allow better differential diagnosis of the auditory system, and will allow the development of closed-loop auditory prostheses that automatically adapt to individual users.

Keywords: Auditory evoked potentials; EEG measures; Neural decoding; Objective measures; Speech understanding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Speech Discrimination Tests*
  • Speech Intelligibility
  • Speech Perception*
  • Young Adult