Cortical representations of communication sounds

Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, School of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0732, USA.
Current opinion in otolaryngology & head and neck surgery (Impact Factor: 1.84). 11/2008; 16(5):478-84. DOI: 10.1097/MOO.0b013e32830e6dac
Source: PubMed


This review summarizes recent research into cortical processing of vocalizations in animals and humans. There has been a resurgent interest in this topic accompanied by an increased number of studies using animal models with complex vocalizations and new methods in human brain imaging. Recent results from such studies are discussed.
Experiments have begun to reveal the bilateral cortical fields involved in communication sound processing and the transformations of neural representations that occur among those fields. Advances have also been made in understanding the neuronal basis of interaction between developmental exposures and behavioral experiences with vocalization perception. Exposure to sounds during the developmental period produces large effects on brain responses, as do a variety of specific trained tasks in adults. Studies have also uncovered a neural link between the motor production of vocalizations and the representation of vocalizations in cortex.
Parallel experiments in humans and animals are answering important questions about vocalization processing in the central nervous system. This dual approach promises to reveal microscopic, mesoscopic, and macroscopic principles of large-scale dynamic interactions between brain regions that underlie the complex phenomenon of vocalization perception. Such advances will yield a greater understanding of the causes, consequences, and treatment of disorders related to speech processing.

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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Neurometric analysis has proven to be a powerful tool for studying links between neural activity and perception, especially in visual and somatosensory cortices, but conventional neurometrics are based on a simplistic rate-coding hypothesis that is clearly at odds with the rich and complex temporal spiking patterns evoked by many natural stimuli. In this study, we investigated the possible relationships between temporal spike pattern codes in the primary auditory cortex (A1) and the perceptual detection of subtle changes in the temporal structure of a natural sound. Using a two-alternative forced-choice oddity task, we measured the ability of human listeners to detect local time reversals in a marmoset twitter call. We also recorded responses of neurons in A1 of anesthetized and awake ferrets to these stimuli, and analyzed these responses using a novel neurometric approach that is sensitive to temporal discharge patterns. We found that although spike count-based neurometrics were inadequate to account for behavioral performance on this auditory task, neurometrics based on the temporal discharge patterns of populations of A1 units closely matched the psychometric performance curve, but only if the spiking patterns were resolved at temporal resolutions of 20 msec or better. These results demonstrate that neurometric discrimination curves can be calculated for temporal spiking patterns, and they suggest that such an extension of previous spike count-based approaches is likely to be essential for understanding the neural correlates of the perception of stimuli with a complex temporal structure.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2008 · Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: In individuals who stutter (IWS), speech fluency can be enhanced by altered auditory feedback, although it has adverse effects in control speakers. This indicates abnormalities in the auditory feedback loop in stuttering. Current motor control theories on stuttering propose an impaired processing of internal forward models that might be related to a blurred auditory-to-motor translation. Although speech sound perception is an essential skill to form internal models, perceptual acuity has not been studied in IWS so far. The authors tested the stability of phoneme percepts by analyzing participants' ability to identify voiced and voiceless stop consonants. Two syllable continua were generated by systematic modification of the voice onset time. The authors determined speech perceptual acuity by means of discriminatory power in 25 IWS and 24 matched control participants by determining the phoneme boundaries and by quantifying the interval of voice onset times for which phonemes were perceived ambiguously. In IWS, discriminatory performance was weaker and less stable over time when compared with control participants. In addition, phoneme boundaries were located at longer voice onset times in IWS. Persistent developmental stuttering is associated with less reliable phonological percepts, supporting current theories regarding the sensory-motor interaction in human speech.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research