Phoneme representation and classification in primary auditory cortex

Nima Mesgarani, Stephen David, Jonathan B. Fritz, Shihab A. Shamma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

118 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A controversial issue in neurolinguistics is whether basic neural auditory representations found in many animals can account for human perception of speech. This question was addressed by examining how a population of neurons in the primary auditory cortex (A1) of the naïve awake ferret encodes phonemes and whether this representation could account for the human ability to discriminate them. When neural responses were characterized and ordered by spectral tuning and dynamics, perceptually significant features including formant patterns in vowels and place and manner of articulation in consonants, were readily visualized by activity in distinct neural subpopulations. Furthermore, these responses faithfully encoded the similarity between the acoustic features of these phonemes. A simple classifier trained on the neural representation was able to simulate human phoneme confusion when tested with novel exemplars. These results suggest that A1 responses are sufficiently rich to encode and discriminate phoneme classes and that humans and animals may build upon the same general acoustic representations to learn boundaries for categorical and robust sound classification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-909
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume123
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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phonemes
cortexes
acoustics
animals
vowels
confusion
classifiers
neurons
tuning
Auditory Cortex
Phoneme
Animals
Acoustics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

Cite this

Phoneme representation and classification in primary auditory cortex. / Mesgarani, Nima; David, Stephen; Fritz, Jonathan B.; Shamma, Shihab A.

In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 123, No. 2, 2008, p. 899-909.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mesgarani, Nima ; David, Stephen ; Fritz, Jonathan B. ; Shamma, Shihab A. / Phoneme representation and classification in primary auditory cortex. In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2008 ; Vol. 123, No. 2. pp. 899-909.
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