Poster B49, Thursday, August 16, 3:05 – 4:50 pm, Room 2000AB

Better phase-locking to song than speech in difficult listening conditions

Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden1, Marc Joanisse1, Jessica Grahn1;1Western University

A growing body of literature suggests that children who struggle with reading also show poorer phase-locking to the slow, syllable-level, rhythms of speech. In particular, phase-locking in the delta (1-4 Hz) and theta (4-8Hz) frequency band has been linked to poor reading performance, such as in children with dyslexia. It is possible that manipulating speech to better mark the syllable onsets in speech, would allow children with poor reading skills phase-lock the delta and theta band speech information just as well as their typically developing peers. Music has multiple spectral and temporal characteristics that could highlight syllable-level rhythms in an utterance when it is sung. For instance, the beat, metrical structure, and discrete movements in pitch might help listeners better predict when the next syllable might occur, leading to better phase-locking to the same sentence when it is sung compared to spoken. 20 adults and 22 children participated in several behavioural measures, including IQ, reading/language ability (CTOPP, TOWRE, RAN), musical beat production and perception (Beat Alignment Test) and a passive EEG task. We measured brain activity while listeners heard the same utterances spoken and sung and, for a more difficult listening condition, we also time-compressed these same utterances by 50%. We indexed phase-locking by characterizing how aligned the phase of the neural data was with the amplitude envelope of each utterance using a measure called cerebro-acoustic phase-coherence. We found that adults phase-locked equally well to speech and song in the uncompressed condition, but adults were better at phase-locking to song than speech in the compressed speech condition in the theta band. This finding suggests that the regularities of music may aid in tracking the low-frequency information in language. Preliminary data from children show a similar pattern of results, but analyses are still ongoing. All data will be discussed in terms of the relationship between phase-locking, language outcomes, and musical beat processing.

Topic Area: Language Development