Paying attention to one speaker in noisy environments can be extremely difficult, because to-be-attended and task-irrelevant speech compete for processing resources. We tested whether this competition is restricted to acoustic-phonetic interference or if it extends to competition for linguistic processing as well. Neural activity was recorded using Magnetoencephalography as human participants were instructed to attended to natural speech presented to one ear, and task-irrelevant stimuli were presented to the other. Task-irrelevant stimuli consisted either of random sequences of syllables, or syllables structured to form coherent sentences, using hierarchical frequency-tagging. We find that the phrasal structure of structured task-irrelevant stimuli was represented in the neural response in left inferior frontal and posterior parietal regions, indicating that selective attention does not fully eliminate linguistic processing of task-irrelevant speech. Additionally, neural tracking of to-be-attended speech in left inferior frontal regions was enhanced when competing with structured task-irrelevant stimuli, suggesting inherent competition between them for linguistic processing.
The Full MEG data and examples of the stimuli are now available on the Open Science Framework repository (https://osf.io/e93qa)
Data from: Linguistic processing of task-irrelevant speech at a Cocktail PartyOpen Science Framework, e93qa.
- Elana Zion Golumbic
- Elana Zion Golumbic
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: The study was approved by the IRB committee at Bar-Ilan University and all participants provided their written consent for participation prior to the experiment.
- Barbara G Shinn-Cunningham, Carnegie Mellon University, United States
- Received: November 22, 2020
- Accepted: April 26, 2021
- Accepted Manuscript published: May 4, 2021 (version 1)
© 2021, Har-shai Yahav & Zion Golumbic
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.