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Psychophysiology. 2012 Mar;49(3):322-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01314.x. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

Magnetic brain activity phase-locked to the envelope, the syllable onsets, and the fundamental frequency of a perceived speech signal.

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Department of General Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


During speech perception, acoustic correlates of syllable structure and pitch periodicity are directly reflected in electrophysiological brain activity. Magnetoencephalography (MEG) recordings were made while 10 participants listened to natural or formant-synthesized speech at moderately fast or ultrafast rate. Cross-correlation analysis was applied to show brain activity time-locked to the speech envelope, to an acoustic marker of syllable onsets, and to pitch periodicity. The envelope yielded a right-lateralized M100-like response, syllable onsets gave rise to M50/M100-like fields with an additional anterior M50 component, and pitch (ca. 100 Hz) elicited a neural resonance bound to a central auditory source at a latency of 30 ms. The strength of these MEG components showed differential effects of syllable rate and natural versus synthetic speech. Presumingly, such phase-locking mechanisms serve as neuronal triggers for the extraction of information-bearing elements.

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