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Speech is crucial for communication in everyday life. Speech-brain entrainment, the alignment of neural activity to the slow temporal fluctuations (envelope) of acoustic speech input, is a ubiquitous element of current theories of speech processing. Associations between speech-brain entrainment and acoustic speech signal, listening task, and speech intelligibility have been observed repeatedly. However, a methodological bottleneck has prevented so far clarifying whether speech-brain entrainment contributes functionally to (i.e., causes) speech intelligibility or is merely an epiphenomenon of it. To address this long-standing issue, we experimentally manipulated speech-brain entrainment without concomitant acoustic and task-related variations, using a brain stimulation approach that enables modulating listeners' neural activity with transcranial currents carrying speech-envelope information. Results from two experiments involving a cocktail-party-like scenario and a listening situation devoid of aural speech-amplitude envelope input reveal consistent effects on listeners' speech-recognition performance, demonstrating a causal role of speech-brain entrainment in speech intelligibility. Our findings imply that speech-brain entrainment is critical for auditory speech comprehension and suggest that transcranial stimulation with speech-envelope-shaped currents can be utilized to modulate speech comprehension in impaired listening conditions.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Current biology : CB
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Ability to make speech sounds that are recognizable.
Treatment for individuals with speech defects and disorders that involves counseling and use of various exercises and aids to help the development of new speech habits.
The acoustic aspects of speech in terms of frequency, intensity, and time.
Measurement of the ability to hear speech under various conditions of intensity and noise interference using sound-field as well as earphones and bone oscillators.
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