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Speaking rhythmically can shape hearing


Evidence suggests that temporal predictions arising from the motor system can enhance auditory perception. However, in speech perception, we lack evidence of perception being modulated by production. Here we show a behavioural protocol that captures the existence of such auditory–motor interactions. Participants performed a syllable discrimination task immediately after producing periodic syllable sequences. Two speech rates were explored: a ‘natural’ (individually preferred) and a fixed ‘non-natural’ (2 Hz) rate. Using a decoding approach, we show that perceptual performance is modulated by the stimulus phase determined by a participant’s own motor rhythm. Remarkably, for ‘natural’ and ‘non-natural’ rates, this finding is restricted to a subgroup of the population with quantifiable auditory–motor coupling. The observed pattern is compatible with a neural model assuming a bidirectional interaction of auditory and speech motor cortices. Crucially, the model matches the experimental results only if it incorporates individual differences in the strength of the auditory–motor connection.

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Fig. 1: Experimental paradigm.
Fig. 2: Analysis pipeline.
Fig. 3: Speech production entrains speech perception in high synchronizers.
Fig. 4: Speech perception entrained visual perception in high and low synchronizers.
Fig. 5: Neural model compatible with the behavioural observations.

Data availability

The data that support this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

Code availability

Custom code that supports the findings of this study is available from the corresponding authors upon request.


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We thank M. Grabenhorst, J.-R. King and L. Gwilliams for their valuable input regarding the data analysis, M. Fichter for data recordings and S. Brendecke for graphics support. This work was funded by the Max-Planck-Institute for Empirical Aesthetics. The funders had no role in the conceptualization, design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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M.F.A., J.M.R. and D.P. conceived of and designed the experiments. J.M.R. collected the data. M.F.A. and J.M.R. conceived and designed the analyses. M.F.A. performed the main analyses and contributed the SSS-test analysis toolbox. Y.S.P. and M.F.A. generated the computational model. M.F.A., J.M.R. and D.P. interpreted the results. M.F.A. and J.M.R. wrote the manuscript. All authors edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. Florencia Assaneo or Johanna M. Rimmele.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Assaneo, M.F., Rimmele, J.M., Sanz Perl, Y. et al. Speaking rhythmically can shape hearing. Nat Hum Behav 5, 71–82 (2021).

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