Emerging neurophysiologic evidence indicates that motor systems are activated during the perception of speech, but whether this activity reflects basic processes underlying speech perception remains a matter of considerable debate. Our contribution to this debate is to report direct behavioral evidence that specific articulatory commands are activated automatically and involuntarily during speech perception. We used electropalatography to measure whether motor information activated from spoken distractors would yield specific distortions on the articulation of printed target syllables. Participants produced target syllables beginning with /k/ or /s/ while listening to the same syllables or to incongruent rhyming syllables beginning with /t/. Tongue–palate contact for target productions was measured during the articulatory closure of /k/ and during the frication of /s/. Results revealed “traces” of the incongruent distractors on target productions, with the incongruent /t/-initial distractors inducing greater alveolar contact in the articulation of /k/ and /s/ than the congruent distractors. Two further experiments established that (i) the nature of this interference effect is dependent specifically on the articulatory properties of the spoken distractors; and (ii) this interference effect is unique to spoken distractors and does not arise when distractors are presented in printed form. Results are discussed in terms of a broader emerging framework concerning the relationship between perception and action, whereby the perception of action entails activation of the motor system.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Speech perception requires motor system activation.
Yuen et al. find that specific articulatory commands are activated automatically and involuntarily during speech perception, and suggest, in a broader framework, that perception of action entails activation of the motor system. Their behavioral evidence backs up functional MRI studies that have demonstrated that the brain regions involved in the perception of speech overlap with those involved in the production of speech. They reasoned that if articulatory information is activated in speech perception, then this information should interfere with articulation in a scenario in which participants are asked to produce a target syllable while listening to a different auditory distractor. Their approach was to investigate how an auditory distractor impacts upon the actual articulation of a different target. The thought was that if articulatory information is activated in speech perception, then that information might interfere with speech production by introducing particular distortions of the target syllable that reflect the articulatory properties of the distractor. Here is their abstract: