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A Comprehensive Approach to Research and Innovation

The Journal of Neuroscience

Shahin,Antoine; Backer, Kristina; Rosenblum, Lawrence; Kerlin, Jess
Year Published: 
14 February 2018
Volume (issue) pages: 
38 (7) 1835-1849

Audiovisual (AV) integration is essential for speech comprehension, especially in adverse listening situations. Divergent, but not mutually exclusive, theories have been proposed to explain the neural mechanisms underlying AV integration. One theory advocates that this process occurs via interactions between the auditory and visual cortices, as opposed to fusion of AV percepts in a multisensory integrator. Building upon this idea, we proposed that AV integration in spoken language reflects visually induced weighting of phonetic representations at the auditory cortex. EEG was recorded while male and female human subjects watched and listened to videos of a speaker uttering consonant vowel (CV) syllables /ba/ and /fa/, presented in Auditory-only, AV congruent or incongruent contexts. Subjects reported whether they heard /ba/ or /fa/. We hypothesized that vision alters phonetic encoding by dynamically weighting which phonetic representation in the auditory cortex is strengthened or weakened. That is, when subjects are presented with visual /fa/ and acoustic /ba/ and hear /fa/ (illusion-fa), the visual input strengthens the weighting of the phone /f/ representation. When subjects are presented with visual /ba/ and acoustic /fa/ and hear /ba/ (illusion-ba), the visual input weakens the weighting of the phone /f/ representation. Indeed, we found an enlarged N1 auditory evoked potential when subjects perceived illusion-ba, and a reduced N1 when they perceived illusion-fa, mirroring the N1 behavior for /ba/ and /fa/ in Auditory-only settings. These effects were especially pronounced in individuals with more robust illusory perception. These findings provide evidence that visual speech modifies phonetic encoding at the auditory cortex

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