The relation between neural entrainment and speech intelligibility

Abstract

Objectives: We investigate the relation between speech intelligibility and neural entrainment using EEG measurements while avoiding confounds such as language knowledge and cognitive capabilities. Speech understanding is currently measured using behavioural responses to natural running speech. These results not only reflect neural coding of the speech signal, but also language processing, memory and attentional effects. Using EEG measurements we want to eliminate those effects. Methods: 33 normal-hearing adults participated in a first experiment. The subjects listened at- tentively to the Flemish Matrix speech material combined with speech weighted noise at different signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs from -12.5 dB to -1 dB) while their EEG was recorded. By decoding the speech envelope from the EEG signal and correlating it with the original speech envelope, we estimated the neural entrainment of the stimulus envelope. By choosing the frequency range and investigating the effect of the decoder temporal integration window, we were able to find monotonically increasing speech entrainment as a function of stimulus SNR and we were able to focus on pre-attentive pro- cessing. In a second experiment, we compared the results between attentively listening and being distracted by watching a movie. Results: We show that the correlation between decoded and actual envelope monotonically increases with stimulus SNR, and that with subject-specific decoders individual speech intelligibility is strongly correlated with the electrophysiological measure. When the subjects were distracted, we were still able to find an increasing entrainment with SNR. Conclusion: Using EEG measurements we were able to estimate the speech understanding of a subject even when the subject was not attentive. This is the first step towards automatically and objectively estimating speech perception measures, such as the speech reception threshold. Acknowledgements: Financial support for this project is provided by the KU Leuven Special Re- search Fund under grant OT/14/119. Research funded by a PhD grant of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 637424), and from the YouReCa Junior Mobility Programme under grant JUMO/15/034 to Jonas Vanthorn- hout.status: publishe

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Last time updated on April 20, 2017

This paper was published in Lirias.

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