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Poster E74, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Differences in hearing acuity among “normal-hearing” young adults modulate the neural basis for speech comprehension

Yune Lee1, Arthur Wingfield2, Nam-Eun Min3, Charles Jester3, Ethan Kotloff3, Murray Grossman3, Jonathan Peelle4;1Department of Speech and Hearing Science, The Ohio State University, Columbus OH USA, 2Volen National Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University, Waltham MA USA, 3Department of Neurology and Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA USA, 4Department of Otolaryngology, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis MO USA

Speech comprehension requires perceiving a complex acoustic signal, and then performing linguistic operations to extract the correct meaning. We used fMRI to monitor human brain activity while adults aged 18–41 listened to spoken sentences for comprehension. All participants self-reported normal hearing, confirmed by audiometric testing, albeit with some variation within a clinically normal range. The sentences varied in their level of syntactic processing demands, containing either subject-relative or object-relative center-embedded clauses. As expected, participants showed activity related to sentence processing in a left-lateralized frontotemporal network. Although accuracy was generally high, participants still made errors, which were associated with increased activity in bilateral cingulo-opercular and frontoparietal attention networks. A whole-brain regression analysis revealed that activity in a right anterior prefrontal portion of the frontoparietal attention network was related to individual differences in hearing acuity, such that listeners with poorer hearing showed greater recruitment of this region when successfully understanding a sentence. Although left perisylvian activation was greater for syntactically complex sentences than for simpler sentences, right anterior prefrontal recruitment did not differ as a function of sentence type, suggesting a general mechanism that is independent of linguistic processing demands. Our results suggest that even modest variations in hearing ability can impact the systems supporting speech comprehension, and that auditory sentence comprehension in healthy adults entails the coordination of a left perisylvian network that is sensitive to grammatical complexity, and an executive attention network that responds to acoustic challenge.

Topic Area: Perception: Speech Perception and Audiovisual Integration

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