Differential responses to spectrally degraded speech within human auditory cortex: An intracranial electrophysiology study

Kirill V. Nourski, Mitchell Steinschneider, Ariane E. Rhone, Christopher K. Kovach, Hiroto Kawasaki, Matthew A. Howard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Understanding cortical processing of spectrally degraded speech in normal-hearing subjects may provide insights into how sound information is processed by cochlear implant (CI) users. This study investigated electrocorticographic (ECoG) responses to noise-vocoded speech and related these responses to behavioral performance in a phonemic identification task. Subjects were neurosurgical patients undergoing chronic invasive monitoring for medically refractory epilepsy. Stimuli were utterances /aba/ and /ada/, spectrally degraded using a noise vocoder (1–4 bands). ECoG responses were obtained from Heschl's gyrus (HG) and superior temporal gyrus (STG), and were examined within the high gamma frequency range (70–150 Hz). All subjects performed at chance accuracy with speech degraded to 1 and 2 spectral bands, and at or near ceiling for clear speech. Inter-subject variability was observed in the 3- and 4-band conditions. High gamma responses in posteromedial HG (auditory core cortex) were similar for all vocoded conditions and clear speech. A progressive preference for clear speech emerged in anterolateral segments of HG, regardless of behavioral performance. On the lateral STG, responses to all vocoded stimuli were larger in subjects with better task performance. In contrast, both behavioral and neural responses to clear speech were comparable across subjects regardless of their ability to identify degraded stimuli. Findings highlight differences in representation of spectrally degraded speech across cortical areas and their relationship to perception. The results are in agreement with prior non-invasive results. The data provide insight into the neural mechanisms associated with variability in perception of degraded speech and potentially into sources of such variability in CI users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Electrocorticography
  • Heschl's gyrus
  • High gamma
  • Noise vocoder
  • Superior temporal gyrus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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