Cortical Tracking of Sung Speech in Adults vs Infants: A Developmental Analysis

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Panayiotou, Dimitris 
Phillips, Alessia 
Ní Choisdealbha, Áine 
Di Liberto, Giovanni M 

jats:pHere we duplicate a neural tracking paradigm, previously published with infants (aged 4 to 11 months), with adult participants, in order to explore potential developmental similarities and differences in entrainment. Adults listened and watched passively as nursery rhymes were sung or chanted in infant-directed speech. Whole-head EEG (128 channels) was recorded, and cortical tracking of the sung speech in the delta (0.5–4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz) and alpha (8–12 Hz) frequency bands was computed using linear decoders (multivariate Temporal Response Function models, mTRFs). Phase-amplitude coupling (PAC) was also computed to assess whether delta and theta phases temporally organize higher-frequency amplitudes for adults in the same pattern as found in the infant brain. Similar to previous infant participants, the adults showed significant cortical tracking of the sung speech in both delta and theta bands. However, the frequencies associated with peaks in stimulus-induced spectral power (PSD) in the two populations were different. PAC was also different in the adults compared to the infants. PAC was stronger for theta- versus delta- driven coupling in adults but was equal for delta- versus theta-driven coupling in infants. Adults also showed a stimulus-induced increase in low alpha power that was absent in infants. This may suggest adult recruitment of other cognitive processes, possibly related to comprehension or attention. The comparative data suggest that while infant and adult brains utilize essentially the same cortical mechanisms to track linguistic input, the operation of and interplay between these mechanisms may change with age and language experience.</jats:p>

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Frontiers in Neuroscience
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Frontiers Media SA
European Research Council (694786)
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 694786).