Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 24 February 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00096

Impaired extraction of speech rhythm from temporal modulation patterns in speech in developmental dyslexia

  • Department of Psychology, Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Dyslexia is associated with impaired neural representation of the sound structure of words (phonology). The “phonological deficit” in dyslexia may arise in part from impaired speech rhythm perception, thought to depend on neural oscillatory phase-locking to slow amplitude modulation (AM) patterns in the speech envelope. Speech contains AM patterns at multiple temporal rates, and these different AM rates are associated with phonological units of different grain sizes, e.g., related to stress, syllables or phonemes. Here, we assess the ability of adults with dyslexia to use speech AMs to identify rhythm patterns (RPs). We study 3 important temporal rates: “Stress” (~2 Hz), “Syllable” (~4 Hz) and “Sub-beat” (reduced syllables, ~14 Hz). 21 dyslexics and 21 controls listened to nursery rhyme sentences that had been tone-vocoded using either single AM rates from the speech envelope (Stress only, Syllable only, Sub-beat only) or pairs of AM rates (Stress + Syllable, Syllable + Sub-beat). They were asked to use the acoustic rhythm of the stimulus to identity the original nursery rhyme sentence. The data showed that dyslexics were significantly poorer at detecting rhythm compared to controls when they had to utilize multi-rate temporal information from pairs of AMs (Stress + Syllable or Syllable + Sub-beat). These data suggest that dyslexia is associated with a reduced ability to utilize AMs <20 Hz for rhythm recognition. This perceptual deficit in utilizing AM patterns in speech could be underpinned by less efficient neuronal phase alignment and cross-frequency neuronal oscillatory synchronization in dyslexia. Dyslexics' perceptual difficulties in capturing the full spectro-temporal complexity of speech over multiple timescales could contribute to the development of impaired phonological representations for words, the cognitive hallmark of dyslexia across languages.

Keywords: amplitude modulation, envelope, speech rhythm, dyslexia, oscillations

Citation: Leong V and Goswami U (2014) Impaired extraction of speech rhythm from temporal modulation patterns in speech in developmental dyslexia. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8:96. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00096

Received: 03 December 2013; Accepted: 08 February 2014;
Published online: 24 February 2014.

Edited by:

Pierluigi Zoccolotti, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Reviewed by:

Fumiko Hoeft, University of California, San Francisco, USA
Roeland Hankock, University of California, San Francisco, USA (in collaboration with Fumiko Hoeft)
Jenny Thomson, University of Sheffield, UK
Jarmo Hämäläinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Copyright © 2014 Leong and Goswami. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Victoria Leong, Department of Psychology, Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK e-mail: vvec2@cam.ac.uk

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