Predictions of Speech Chimaera Intelligibility Using Auditory Nerve Mean-Rate and Spike-Timing Neural Cues
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Perceptual studies of speech intelligibility have shown that slow variations of acoustic envelope (ENV) in a small set of frequency bands provides adequate information for good perceptual performance in quiet, whereas acoustic temporal fine-structure (TFS) cues play a supporting role in background noise. However, the implications for neural coding are prone to misinterpretation because the mean-rate neural representation can contain recovered ENV cues from cochlear filtering of TFS. We investigated ENV recovery and spike-time TFS coding using objective measures of simulated mean-rate and spike-timing neural representations of chimaeric speech, in which either the ENV or the TFS is replaced by another signal. We (a) evaluated the levels of mean-rate and spike-timing neural information for two categories of chimaeric speech, one retaining ENV cues and the other TFS; (b) examined the level of recovered ENV from cochlear filtering of TFS speech; (c) examined and quantified the contribution to recovered ENV from spike-timing cues using a lateral inhibition network (LIN); and (d) constructed linear regression models with objective measures of mean-rate and spike-timing neural cues and subjective phoneme perception scores from normal-hearing listeners. The mean-rate neural cues from the original ENV and recovered ENV partially accounted for perceptual score variability, with additional variability explained by the recovered ENV from the LIN-processed TFS speech. The best model predictions of chimaeric speech intelligibility were found when both the mean-rate and spike-timing neural cues were included, providing further evidence that spike-time coding of TFS cues is important for intelligibility when the speech envelope is degraded.
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