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Brain Lang. 2001 Aug;78(2):241-53.

Neurological evidence in support of a specialized phonetic processing module.

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  • 1Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus 43210-1002, USA.


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were utilized to study brain activity while subjects listened to speech and nonspeech stimuli. The effect of duplex perception was exploited, in which listeners perceive formant transitions that are isolated as nonspeech "chirps," but perceive formant transitions that are embedded in synthetic syllables as unique linguistic events with no chirp-like sounds heard at all (Mattingly et al., 1971). Brain ERPs were recorded while subjects listened to and silently identified plain speech-only tokens, duplex tokens, and tone glides (perceived as "chirps" by listeners). A highly controlled set of stimuli was developed that represented equivalent speech and nonspeech stimulus tokens such that the differences were limited to a single acoustic parameter: amplitude. The acoustic elements were matched in terms of number and frequency of components. Results indicated that the neural activity in response to the stimuli was different for different stimulus types. Duplex tokens had significantly longer latencies than the pure speech tokens. The data are consistent with the contention of separate modules for phonetic and auditory stimuli.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

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