The role of accent imitation in sensorimotor integration during processing of intelligible speech
SourceFrontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, (2013), article 634
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
Recent theories on how listeners maintain perceptual invariance despite variation in the speech signal allocate a prominent role to imitation mechanisms. Notably, these simulation accounts propose that motor mechanisms support perception of ambiguous or noisy signals. Indeed, imitation of ambiguous signals, e.g., accented speech, has been found to aid effective speech comprehension. Here, we explored the possibility that imitation in speech benefits perception by increasing activation in speech perception and production areas. Participants rated the intelligibility of sentences spoken in an unfamiliar accent of Dutch in a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging experiment. Next, participants in one group repeated the sentences in their own accent, while a second group vocally imitated the accent. Finally, both groups rated the intelligibility of accented sentences in a post-test. The neuroimaging results showed an interaction between type of training and pre- and post-test sessions in left Inferior Frontal Gyrus, Supplementary Motor Area, and left Superior Temporal Sulcus. Although alternative explanations such as task engagement and fatigue need to be considered as well, the results suggest that imitation may aid effective speech comprehension by supporting sensorimotor integration.
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