Neural indices of phonemic discrimination and sentence-level speech intelligibility in quiet and noise: A P3 study

Tess K. Koerner, Yang Zhang, Peggy B. Nelson, Boxiang Wang, Hui Zou

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6 Scopus citations


This study examined how speech babble noise differentially affected the auditory P3 responses and the associated neural oscillatory activities for consonant and vowel discrimination in relation to segmental- and sentence-level speech perception in noise. The data were collected from 16 normal-hearing participants in a double-oddball paradigm that contained a consonant (/ba/ to /da/) and vowel (/ba/ to /bu/) change in quiet and noise (speech-babble background at a −3 dB signal-to-noise ratio) conditions. Time-frequency analysis was applied to obtain inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC) and event-related spectral perturbation (ERSP) measures in delta, theta, and alpha frequency bands for the P3 response. Behavioral measures included percent correct phoneme detection and reaction time as well as percent correct IEEE sentence recognition in quiet and in noise. Linear mixed-effects models were applied to determine possible brain-behavior correlates. A significant noise-induced reduction in P3 amplitude was found, accompanied by significantly longer P3 latency and decreases in ITPC across all frequency bands of interest. There was a differential effect of noise on consonant discrimination and vowel discrimination in both ERP and behavioral measures, such that noise impacted the detection of the consonant change more than the vowel change. The P3 amplitude and some of the ITPC and ERSP measures were significant predictors of speech perception at segmental- and sentence-levels across listening conditions and stimuli. These data demonstrate that the P3 response with its associated cortical oscillations represents a potential neurophysiological marker for speech perception in noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the University of Minnesota (Charles E. Speaks Graduate Fellowship to TKK, Brain Imaging Research Project Award to YZ, and Grand Challenges Exploratory Research Grant to YZ & HZ) and the Capita Foundation (YZ). Participant payment was partially supported by NIDCD R01-DC008306 (PBN). YZ conceived the study; YZ and TKK designed research; TKK and YZ performed research and analyzed data; PN, BW and HZ offered consultation; TKK and YZ wrote the article. The authors would like to thank Edward Carney, Sharon Miller, Adam Svec, Yingjiu Nie, and Luodi Yu for their assistance and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and detailed suggestions to improve the manuscript. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Event-related potential
  • Event-related spectral perturbation (ERSP)
  • Inter-trial phase coherence (ITPC)
  • P3
  • Speech perception


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