Cortical characterization of the perception of intelligible and unintelligible speech measured via high-density electroencephalography

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High-density electroencephalography was used to evaluate cortical activity during speech comprehension via a sentence verification task. Twenty-four participants assigned true or false to sentences produced with 3 noise-vocoded channel levels

High-density electroencephalography was used to evaluate cortical activity during speech comprehension via a sentence verification task. Twenty-four participants assigned true or false to sentences produced with 3 noise-vocoded channel levels (1-unintelligible, 6-decipherable, 16-intelligible), during simultaneous EEG recording. Participant data were sorted into higher- (HP) and lower-performing (LP) groups. The identification of a late-event related potential for LP listeners in the intelligible condition and in all listeners when challenged with a 6-Ch signal supports the notion that this induced potential may be related to either processing degraded speech, or degraded processing of intelligible speech. Different cortical locations are identified as neural generators responsible for this activity; HP listeners are engaging motor aspects of their language system, utilizing an acoustic–phonetic based strategy to help resolve the sentence, while LP listeners do not. This study presents evidence for neurophysiological indices associated with more or less successful speech comprehension performance across listening conditions.