While significant progress has been made in recent years in describing the neural systems that are responsible for mapping the speech signal to meaning, the role of inferior frontal brain structures in this process remains poorly understood. The current project is designed to investigate the hypothesis that the left inferior frontal gyrus plays an active role processing the sounds of speech in order to map them to meaning. First, we suggest that the left inferior frontal gyrus is implicated under conditions of phonetic competition as speech sounds are mapped to meaning. Second, we investigate the role of inferior frontal regions in the acquisition of new speech categories in both implicit and explicit training paradigms. These questions will be addressed via functional neuroimaging (fMRI) studies of unimpaired individuals together with yoked behavioral studies of aphasic individuals with lesions in either frontal or temporal brain structures. Behavioral measures include the use of eye-tracking measures which allow for the collection of online, implicit measures of sensitivity to phonetic category variability. Results of these studies will refine existing models of the neural underpinnings of speech perception. The knowledge gained as a result of this project will better characterize impairments at the level of speech processing in aphasic individuals with frontal and temporal damage. This knowledge, together, with an enhanced understanding of the capacity of aphasics to learn new speech sound sensitivities, may be used to inform rehabilitative strategies for aphasics with frontal and temporal damage.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research will shed light on the role of inferior frontal and temporal brain structures in the perception and acquisition of the sounds of speech, and this information may ultimately be used to inform treatment strategies for aphasic individuals with damage to these brain structures. A more complete understanding of the function of these brain areas will also add to our understanding of other language disorders such as SLI and dyslexia which may involve impairments in processing the sounds of speech.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Shekim, Lana O
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University of Connecticut
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Xie, Xin; Earle, F Sayako; Myers, Emily B (2018) Sleep Facilitates Generalisation of Accent Adaptation to a New Talker. Lang Cogn Neurosci 33:196-210
Xie, Xin; Myers, Emily (2018) Left Inferior Frontal Gyrus Sensitivity to Phonetic Competition in Receptive Language Processing: A Comparison of Clear and Conversational Speech. J Cogn Neurosci 30:267-280
Earle, F Sayako; Landi, Nicole; Myers, Emily B (2018) Adults with Specific Language Impairment fail to consolidate speech sounds during sleep. Neurosci Lett 666:58-63
Saltzman, David; Myers, Emily (2018) Listeners are maximally flexible in updating phonetic beliefs over time. Psychon Bull Rev 25:718-724
Xie, Xin; Theodore, Rachel M; Myers, Emily B (2017) More than a boundary shift: Perceptual adaptation to foreign-accented speech reshapes the internal structure of phonetic categories. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 43:206-217
Myers, Emily B; Theodore, Rachel M (2017) Voice-sensitive brain networks encode talker-specific phonetic detail. Brain Lang 165:33-44
Earle, F Sayako; Landi, Nicole; Myers, Emily B (2017) Sleep duration predicts behavioral and neural differences in adult speech sound learning. Neurosci Lett 636:77-82
Xie, Xin; Myers, Emily B (2017) Learning a Talker or Learning an Accent: Acoustic Similarity Constrains Generalization of Foreign Accent Adaptation to New Talkers. J Mem Lang 97:30-46
Earle, F Sayako; Arthur, Dana T (2017) Native phonological processing abilities predict post-consolidation nonnative contrast learning in adults. J Acoust Soc Am 142:EL525
Earle, F Sayako; Myers, Emily B (2015) Overnight consolidation promotes generalization across talkers in the identification of nonnative speech sounds. J Acoust Soc Am 137:EL91-7

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