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Heard or Understood? Neural Tracking of Language Features in a Comprehensible Story, an Incomprehensible Story and a Word List

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Speech comprehension is a complex neural process on which relies on activation and integration of multiple brain regions. In the current study, we evaluated whether speech comprehension can be investigated by neural tracking. Neural tracking is the phenomenon in which the brain responses time-lock to the rhythm of specific features in continuous speech. These features can be acoustic, i.e., acoustic tracking, or derived from the content of the speech using language properties, i.e., language tracking. We evaluated whether neural tracking of speech differs between a comprehensible story, an incomprehensible story, and a word list. We evaluated the neural responses to speech of 19 participants (six men). No significant difference regarding acoustic tracking was found. However, significant language tracking was only found for the comprehensible story. The most prominent effect was visible to word surprisal, a language feature at the word level. The neural response to word surprisal showed a prominent negativity between 300 and 400 ms, similar to the N400 in evoked response paradigms. This N400 was significantly more negative when the story was comprehended, i.e., when words could be integrated in the context of previous words. These results show that language tracking can capture the effect of speech comprehension.
Tijdschrift: eNeuro
ISSN: 2373-2822
Issue: 7
Volume: 10
Jaar van publicatie:2023