Cortical Tracking of Speech-in-Noise Develops from Childhood to Adulthood
Vander Ghinst, Marc
De Tiège, Xavier
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Cortical Tracking of Speech-in-Noise Develops from Childhood to Adulthood Marc Vander Ghinst, Mathieu Bourguignon, Maxime Niesen, Vincent Wens, Sergio Hassid, Georges Choufani, Veikko Jousmäki, Riitta Hari, Serge Goldman, Xavier De Tiège Journal of Neuroscience 10 April 2019, 39 (15) 2938-2950; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1732-18.2019
In multitalker backgrounds, the auditory cortex of adult humans tracks the attended speech stream rather than the global auditory scene. Still, it is unknown whether such preferential tracking also occurs in children whose speech-in-noise (SiN) abilities are typically lower compared with adults. We used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to investigate the frequency-specific cortical tracking of different elements of a cocktail party auditory scene in 20 children (age range, 6–9 years; 8 females) and 20 adults (age range, 21– 40 years; 10 females). DuringMEGrecordings, subjects attended to four different 5 min stories, mixed with different levels of multitalker background at four signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs; noiseless, 5, 0, and 5 dB). Coherence analysis quantified the coupling between the time courses of the MEG activity and attended speech stream, multitalker background, or global auditory scene, respectively. In adults, statistically significant coherence was observed between MEG signals originating from the auditory system and the attended stream at 1, 1– 4, and 4–8 Hz in all SNR conditions. Children displayed similar coupling at 1 and 1– 4 Hz, but increasing noise impaired the coupling more strongly than in adults. Also, children displayed drastically lower coherence at 4–8 Hz in all SNR conditions. These results suggest that children’s difficulties to understand speech in noisy conditions are related to an immature selective cortical tracking of the attended speech streams. Our results also provide unprecedented evidence for an acquired cortical tracking of speech at syllable rate and argue for a progressive development of SiN abilities in humans.