2011-04-09Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00062
Acoustic processing of temporally modulated sounds in infants: evidence from a combined near-infrared spectroscopy and EEG study
Speech perception requires rapid extraction of the linguistic content from the acoustic signal. The ability to efficiently process rapid changes in auditory information is important for decoding speech and thereby crucial during language acquisition. Investigating functional networks of speech perception in infancy might elucidate neuronal ensembles supporting perceptual abilities that gate language acquisition. Interhemispheric specializations for language have been demonstrated in infants. How these asymmetries are shaped by basic temporal acoustic properties is under debate. We recently provided evidence that newborns process non-linguistic sounds sharing temporal features with language in a differential and lateralized fashion. The present study used the same material while measuring brain responses of 6 and 3 month old infants using simultaneous recordings of electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). NIRS reveals that the lateralization observed in newborns remains constant over the first months of life. While fast acoustic modulations elicit bilateral neuronal activations, slow modulations lead to right-lateralized responses. Additionally, auditory-evoked potentials and oscillatory EEG responses show differential responses for fast and slow modulations indicating a sensitivity for temporal acoustic variations. Oscillatory responses reveal an effect of development, that is, 6 but not 3 month old infants show stronger theta-band desynchronization for slowly modulated sounds. Whether this developmental effect is due to increasing fine-grained perception for spectrotemporal sounds in general remains speculative. Our findings support the notion that a more general specialization for acoustic properties can be considered the basis for lateralization of speech perception. The results show that concurrent assessment of vascular based imaging and electrophysiological responses have great potential in the research on language acquisition.
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Copyright: © 2011 Telkemeyer, Rossi, Nierhaus, Steinbrink, Obrig and Wartenburger. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.