Speech is the most important signal in our auditory environment, and the processing of speech is highly dependent on context. However, it is unknown how contextual demands influence the neural encoding of speech. Here, we examine the context dependence of auditory cortical mechanisms for speech encoding at the level of the representation of fundamental acoustic features (spectrotemporal modulations) using model-based functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found that the performance of different tasks on identical speech sounds leads to neural enhancement of the acoustic features in the stimuli that are critically relevant to task performance. These task effects were observed at the earliest stages of auditory cortical processing, in line with interactive accounts of speech processing. Our work provides important insights into the mechanisms that underlie the processing of contextually relevant acoustic information within our rich and dynamic auditory environment.
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The code that support the findings of this study is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
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We thank the staff at the Center for Biomedical Imaging EPFL, Vaud, Switzerland for access to the imaging platform, and W. van der Zwaag for facilitating data collection; J. Gonzalez for helping with auditory recording; F. Zay for reading the stimuli; C. Türk for assisting during data collection and L. Ermacora for the phonetic segmentation of the stimuli; F. De Martino for providing code for analysing the data; V. de Angelis and N. Disbergen for helping with data analysis; G. Valente for helping with the statistical analysis and D. Gallichan for motion correction of the anatomical images. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant numbers PP00P3_133701, PP00P3_163756 and 100014_182381 awarded to N.G.) and the University of Geneva Language and Communication Research Network. E.F. was supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (VICI grant number 453-12-002) and the Dutch Province of Limburg. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information: Primary Handling Editor: Mary Elizabeth Sutherland.
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Supplementary Figs. 1–16, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2, Supplementary Results 1 and 2, Supplementary Methods 1–7.
Audio files of the stimuli used in the paper (for a complete description of each file, see Supplementary Information guide).
Feature matrix S that was obtained from the stimuli (for more information, see Supplementary Information guide).
Beta-weights that represent the fMRI responses to individual speech sounds for an example ROI (for more information, see Supplementary Information guide).
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Rutten, S., Santoro, R., Hervais-Adelman, A. et al. Cortical encoding of speech enhances task-relevant acoustic information. Nat Hum Behav 3, 974–987 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0648-9
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