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Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2009 Sep;9(3):304-13. doi: 10.3758/CABN.9.3.304.

Modeling the categorical perception of speech sounds: a step toward biological plausibility.

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Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki, Finland.


Our native language has a lifelong effect on how we perceive speech sounds. Behaviorally, this is manifested as categorical perception, but the neural mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still unknown. Here, we constructed a computational model of categorical perception, following principles consistent with infant speech learning. A self-organizing network was exposed to a statistical distribution of speech input presented as neural activity patterns of the auditory periphery, resembling the way sound arrives to the human brain. In the resulting neural map, categorical perception emerges from most single neurons of the model being maximally activated by prototypical speech sounds, while the largest variability in activity is produced at category boundaries. Consequently, regions in the vicinity of prototypes become perceptually compressed, and regions at category boundaries become expanded. Thus, the present study offers a unifying framework for explaining the neural basis of the warping of perceptual space associated with categorical perception.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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