October 30, 2020

Exposing distinct subcortical components of the auditory brainstem response evoked by continuous naturalistic speech

The auditory brainstem is important for processing speech, yet we have much to learn regarding the contributions of different subcortical structures. These deep neural generators respond quickly, making them difficult to study during dynamic, ongoing speech. Recently developed techniques have paved the way to use natural speech stimuli, but the auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) they provide are temporally broad and thus have ambiguous neural sources. Here we describe a new method that uses re-synthesized "peaky" speech stimuli and deconvolution analysis of EEG data to measure canonical ABRs to continuous naturalistic speech of male and female narrators. We show that in adults with normal hearing, peaky speech quickly yields robust ABRs that can be used to investigate speech processing at distinct subcortical structures from auditory nerve to rostral brainstem. We further demonstrate the versatility of peaky speech by simultaneously measuring bilateral and ear-specific responses across different frequency bands. Thus, the peaky speech method holds promise as a powerful tool for investigating speech processing and for clinical applications.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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