Preparatory delta phase response is correlated with naturalistic speech comprehension performance

Cogn Neurodyn. 2022 Apr;16(2):337-352. doi: 10.1007/s11571-021-09711-z. Epub 2021 Aug 31.

Abstract

While human speech comprehension is thought to be an active process that involves top-down predictions, it remains unclear how predictive information is used to prepare for the processing of upcoming speech information. We aimed to identify the neural signatures of the preparatory processing of upcoming speech. Participants selectively attended to one of two competing naturalistic, narrative speech streams, and a temporal response function (TRF) method was applied to derive event-related-like neural responses from electroencephalographic data. The phase responses to the attended speech at the delta band (1-4 Hz) were correlated with the comprehension performance of individual participants, with a latency of - 200-0 ms relative to the onset of speech amplitude envelope fluctuations over the fronto-central and left-lateralized parietal electrodes. The phase responses to the attended speech at the alpha band also correlated with comprehension performance but with a latency of 650-980 ms post-onset over the fronto-central electrodes. Distinct neural signatures were found for the attentional modulation, taking the form of TRF-based amplitude responses at a latency of 240-320 ms post-onset over the left-lateralized fronto-central and occipital electrodes. Our findings reveal how the brain gets prepared to process an upcoming speech in a continuous, naturalistic speech context.

Keywords: Attention; Electroencephalogram; Preparatory processing; Speech comprehension; Temporal response function.