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Hear Res. 2011 Jan;271(1-2):103-14. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2010.04.008. Epub 2010 May 7.

Enhanced physiologic discriminability of stop consonants with prolonged formant transitions in awake monkeys based on the tonotopic organization of primary auditory cortex.

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Department of Neurology, Rose F. Kennedy Center, Room 322, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Many children with specific language impairment (SLI) have difficulty in perceiving stop consonant-vowel syllables (e.g., /ba/, /ga/, /da/) with rapid formant transitions, but perform normally when formant transitions are extended in time. This influential observation has helped lead to the development of the auditory temporal processing hypothesis, which posits that SLI is causally related to the processing of rapidly changing sounds in aberrantly expanded windows of temporal integration. We tested a potential physiological basis for this observation by examining whether syllables varying in their consonant place of articulation (POA) with prolonged formant transitions would evoke better differentiated patterns of activation along the tonotopic axis of A1 in awake monkeys when compared to syllables with short formant transitions, especially for more prolonged windows of temporal integration. Amplitudes of multi-unit activity evoked by /ba/, /ga/, and /da/ were ranked according to predictions based on responses to tones centered at the spectral maxima of frication at syllable onset. Population responses representing consonant POA were predicted by the tone responses. Predictions were stronger for syllables with prolonged formant transitions, especially for longer windows of temporal integration. Relevance of findings to normal perception and that occurring in SLI are discussed.

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