Delta/theta band EEG differentially tracks low and high frequency speech-derived envelopes

Neuroimage. 2021 Jun;233:117958. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117958. Epub 2021 Mar 17.


The representation of speech in the brain is often examined by measuring the alignment of rhythmic brain activity to the speech envelope. To conveniently quantify this alignment (termed 'speech tracking') many studies consider the broadband speech envelope, which combines acoustic fluctuations across the spectral range. Using EEG recordings, we show that using this broadband envelope can provide a distorted picture on speech encoding. We systematically investigated the encoding of spectrally-limited speech-derived envelopes presented by individual and multiple noise carriers in the human brain. Tracking in the 1 to 6 Hz EEG bands differentially reflected low (0.2 - 0.83 kHz) and high (2.66 - 8 kHz) frequency speech-derived envelopes. This was independent of the specific carrier frequency but sensitive to attentional manipulations, and may reflect the context-dependent emphasis of information from distinct spectral ranges of the speech envelope in low frequency brain activity. As low and high frequency speech envelopes relate to distinct phonemic features, our results suggest that functionally distinct processes contribute to speech tracking in the same EEG bands, and are easily confounded when considering the broadband speech envelope.

Keywords: Brain rhythms; EEG; Hearing; Speech entrainment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods*
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Delta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Speech / physiology
  • Speech Perception / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Young Adult