Pushing the Envelope: Developments in Neural Entrainment to Speech and the Biological Underpinnings of Prosody Perception

Brain Sci. 2019 Mar 22;9(3):70. doi: 10.3390/brainsci9030070.


Prosodic cues in speech are indispensable for comprehending a speaker's message, recognizing emphasis and emotion, parsing segmental units, and disambiguating syntactic structures. While it is commonly accepted that prosody provides a fundamental service to higher-level features of speech, the neural underpinnings of prosody processing are not clearly defined in the cognitive neuroscience literature. Many recent electrophysiological studies have examined speech comprehension by measuring neural entrainment to the speech amplitude envelope, using a variety of methods including phase-locking algorithms and stimulus reconstruction. Here we review recent evidence for neural tracking of the speech envelope and demonstrate the importance of prosodic contributions to the neural tracking of speech. Prosodic cues may offer a foundation for supporting neural synchronization to the speech envelope, which scaffolds linguistic processing. We argue that prosody has an inherent role in speech perception, and future research should fill the gap in our knowledge of how prosody contributes to speech envelope entrainment.

Keywords: EEG; neural entrainment; prosody; rhythm; speech envelope.

Publication types

  • Review