November 27, 2020

Sustained neural rhythms reveal endogenous oscillations supporting speech perception

Rhythmic sensory or electrical stimulation will produce rhythmic brain responses. These rhythmic responses are often interpreted as endogenous neural oscillations aligned to the stimulus rhythm. However, stimulus-aligned brain responses can also be explained as a sequence of evoked responses, which only appear regular due to the rhythmicity of the stimulus, without necessarily involving underlying neural oscillations. To distinguish evoked responses from true oscillatory activity, we tested whether rhythmic stimulation produces oscillatory responses which continue after the end of the stimulus. Such sustained effects provide evidence for true involvement of neural oscillations. In Experiment 1, we found that rhythmic intelligible, but not unintelligible speech produces oscillatory responses in magnetoencephalography (MEG) which outlast the stimulus at parietal sensors. In Experiment 2, we found that transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) leads to rhythmic fluctuations in speech perception outcomes which continue after the end of electrical stimulation. We further report that the phase relation between electroencephalography (EEG) and rhythmic intelligible speech can predict the tACS phase that leads to most accurate speech perception. Together, our results lay the foundation for a new account of speech perception which includes endogenous neural oscillations as a key underlying principle.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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