Neural entrainment determines the words we hear

Kösem, A., Bosker, H. R., Takashima, A., Meyer, A. S., Jensen, O., & Hagoort, P. (2018). Neural entrainment determines the words we hear. Current Biology, 28, 2867-2875. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.023.
Low-frequency neural entrainment to rhythmic input
has been hypothesized as a canonical mechanism
that shapes sensory perception in time. Neural
entrainment is deemed particularly relevant for
speech analysis, as it would contribute to the extraction
of discrete linguistic elements from continuous
acoustic signals. However, its causal influence in
speech perception has been difficult to establish.
Here, we provide evidence that oscillations build temporal
predictions about the duration of speech tokens
that affect perception. Using magnetoencephalography
(MEG), we studied neural dynamics during
listening to sentences that changed in speech rate.
Weobserved neural entrainment to preceding speech
rhythms persisting for several cycles after the change
in rate. The sustained entrainment was associated
with changes in the perceived duration of the last
word’s vowel, resulting in the perception of words
with different meanings. These findings support oscillatory
models of speech processing, suggesting that
neural oscillations actively shape speech perception.
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