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Oschkinat, Miriam; Hoole, Philip; Falk, Simone; Dalla Bella, Simone (2022): Temporal malleability to auditory feedback perturbation is modulated by rhythmic abilities and auditory acuity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 16. ISSN 1662-5161

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Auditory feedback perturbation studies have indicated a link between feedback and feedforward mechanisms in speech production when participants compensate for applied shifts. In spectral perturbation studies, speakers with a higher perceptual auditory acuity typically compensate more than individuals with lower acuity. However, the reaction to feedback perturbation is unlikely to be merely a matter of perceptual acuity but also affected by the prediction and production of precise motor action. This interplay between prediction, perception, and motor execution seems to be crucial for the timing of speech and non-speech motor actions. In this study, to examine the relationship between the responses to temporally perturbed auditory feedback and rhythmic abilities, we tested 45 adult speakers on the one hand with a temporal auditory feedback perturbation paradigm, and on the other hand with rhythm perception and production tasks. The perturbation tasks temporally stretched and compressed segments (onset + vowel or vowel + coda) in fluent speech in real-time. This technique sheds light on the temporal representation and the production flexibility of timing mechanisms in fluent speech with respect to the structure of the syllable. The perception tasks contained staircase paradigms capturing duration discrimination abilities and beat-alignment judgments. The rhythm production tasks consisted of finger tapping tasks taken from the BAASTA tapping battery and additional speech tapping tasks. We found that both auditory acuity and motor stability in finger tapping affected responses to temporal auditory feedback perturbation. In general, speakers with higher auditory acuity and higher motor variability compensated more. However, we observed a different weighting of auditory acuity and motor stability dependent on the prosodic structure of the perturbed sequence and the nature of the response as purely online or adaptive. These findings shed light on the interplay of phonological structure with feedback and feedforward integration for timing mechanisms in speech.

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