Imaging sensorimotor interactions during speech communication

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Experimental Psychology

Abstract

Spoken language is a powerful communication tool, which is unique to humans. Growing evidence shows that both motor and sensory systems in the human brain are engaged in speech production and perception. Fluent speaking involves coordination of precise movements of articulatory organs and monitoring of both somatosensory and auditory consequences of these movements. Speech comprehension, on the other hand, involves auditory analysis of acoustic speech signals and mapping these signals onto motor articulatory gestures. Viewing a talker‘s speech gestures (i.e., lipreading) is an important component of natural face-to-face communication, which engages the motor system and multiple sensory (visual, auditory, and somatosensory) systems. How interactions between motor and sensory systems support fluent speaking and efficient analysis of acoustic and visual speech signals is still poorly understood. The present research project will address these fundamental questions by using a novel method, which combines brain stimulation and imaging. We will use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt the regions in the motor cortex that control movements of articulators and functional MRI (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the consequences of these motor disruptions on processing of sensory signals. This method will reveal whether sensory systems are functionally connected with the motor system during processing of speech signals. The project also uses fMRI to examine functional connectivity between motor and sensory systems during speech communication in fluent speakers and in people who stutter. We aim to determine whether in stuttering speakers functional coupling between the motor and sensory systems during speech perception and production is abnormal. We will also examine the effects of TMS-induced motor disruption on the sensorimotor mechanisms supporting fluency of speech. Delayed auditory feedback (DAF) reduces fluency in normal speakers, but impros it in people who stutter. We will test whether a new promising brain stimulation method (direct current stimulation, DCS) could prolong the effects of DAF on fluency in people who stutter. In sum, the research project is expected to provide new knowledge on the interregional connections that support speech perception and production in the healthy brain and in the brain of people who stutter. The findings will lead to better understanding of the neural basis of speech communication and possibly to development of better treatments for speech and language problems.

Technical Summary

Spoken language is a powerful communication tool, which is unique to humans. Growing evidence shows that both motor and sensory systems in the human brain are engaged in speech production and perception. Fluent speaking involves coordination of precise movements of articulatory organs and monitoring of both somatosensory and auditory consequences of these movements. Speech comprehension, on the other hand, involves auditory analysis of acoustic speech signals and mapping these signals onto motor articulatory gestures. Viewing a talker‘s speech gestures (i.e., lipreading) is an important component of natural face-to-face communication, which engages the motor system and multiple sensory (visual, auditory, and somatosensory) systems. How interactions between motor and sensory systems support fluent speaking and efficient analysis of acoustic and visual speech signals is still poorly understood. The present research project will address these fundamental questions by using a novel method, which combines brain stimulation and imaging. We will use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to disrupt the regions in the motor cortex that control movements of articulators and functional MRI (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure the consequences of these motor disruptions on processing of sensory signals. This method will reveal whether sensory systems are functionally connected with the motor system during processing of speech signals. The project also uses fMRI to examine functional connectivity between motor and sensory systems during speech communication in fluent speakers and in people who stutter. We aim to determine whether in stuttering speakers functional coupling between the motor and sensory systems during speech perception and production is abnormal. We will also examine the effects of TMS-induced motor disruption on the sensorimotor mechanisms supporting fluency of speech. Delayed auditory feedback (DAF) reduces fluency in normal speakers, but impros it in people who stutter. We will test whether a new promising brain stimulation method (direct current stimulation, DCS) could prolong the effects of DAF on fluency in people who stutter. In sum, the research project is expected to provide new knowledge on the interregional connections that support speech perception and production in the healthy brain and in the brain of people who stutter. The findings will lead to better understanding of the neural basis of speech communication and possibly to development of better treatments for speech and language problems.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Project Grant (co-investgator)
Amount £119,287 (GBP)
Organisation The John Templeton Foundation 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States
Start 05/2014 
End 10/2015
 
Description Project Grant (co-investigator)
Amount £312,181 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2010 
End 12/2013
 
Description Collaboration with University of Louvain 
Organisation Catholic University of Louvain
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My team provided methodological expertise to this collaborative project (transcranial magnetic stimulation).
Collaborator Contribution Partners provided theoretical expertise on language learning to this collaborative project.
Impact Publication: E. Smalle, M. Panouilleres, A. Smaleck and R. Möttönen (2017) Language learning in the adult brain: Disrupting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex facilitates word-form learning. Scientific Reports. 7(1):13966.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Attendance for dysfluency interest groups for speech and language therapists 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Health professionals
Results and Impact We discussed our research and its potential relevance for clinical practice and stuttering therapy.

The dysfluency group showed interest in hearing more about our research and future findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013
 
Description Brain Aweness Week 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact My team demonstrated their research (effect of delayed auditory feedback on speaking & transcranial magnetic stimulation) to local school children (from 3 different schools).

The feedback was very positive. The questionnaires showed that the visit had an impact on 1) what the scientists do 2) how the scientists look like 3) how the brain works.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description British Stammering Association Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact My team participated in three events organized by British Stammering Association in 2011 (in London, Lincoln and Cardiff). We talked about the neural basis of stammering and our research. 30-100 stammerers and speech and language therapist attended the talks.

We were asked to write a magazine article to Speaking Out. The audience asked lots of questions in each event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013
 
Description Departmental Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We demonstrated our experimental setup and discussed our results with about 100 members of public. We also presented vidoes on stuttering during the day and discussed how our work could increase understanding of this speech disorder.

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012
 
Description School visit (Finnish Saturday School in Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 20 pupils and 20 parents attended a workshop about the human brain, which sparked questions and discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017