Visual prediction cues can facilitate behavioural and neural speech processing in young and older adults.

TitleVisual prediction cues can facilitate behavioural and neural speech processing in young and older adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsTremblay, P, Basirat, A, Pinto, S, Sato, M
Date Published2021 08 20
KeywordsAcoustic Stimulation, Aged, Auditory Perception, Cues, Humans, Middle Aged, Quality of Life, Speech, Speech Perception, Visual Perception

The ability to process speech evolves over the course of the lifespan. Understanding speech at low acoustic intensity and in the presence of background noise becomes harder, and the ability for older adults to benefit from audiovisual speech also appears to decline. These difficulties can have important consequences on quality of life. Yet, a consensus on the cause of these difficulties is still lacking. The objective of this study was to examine the processing of speech in young and older adults under different modalities (i.e. auditory [A], visual [V], audiovisual [AV]) and in the presence of different visual prediction cues (i.e., no predictive cue (control), temporal predictive cue, phonetic predictive cue, and combined temporal and phonetic predictive cues). We focused on recognition accuracy and four auditory evoked potential (AEP) components: P1-N1-P2 and N2. Thirty-four right-handed French-speaking adults were recruited, including 17 younger adults (28 ± 2 years; 20-42 years) and 17 older adults (67 ± 3.77 years; 60-73 years). Participants completed a forced-choice speech identification task. The main findings of the study are: (1) The faciliatory effect of visual information was reduced, but present, in older compared to younger adults, (2) visual predictive cues facilitated speech recognition in younger and older adults alike, (3) age differences in AEPs were localized to later components (P2 and N2), suggesting that aging predominantly affects higher-order cortical processes related to speech processing rather than lower-level auditory processes. (4) Specifically, AV facilitation on P2 amplitude was lower in older adults, there was a reduced effect of the temporal predictive cue on N2 amplitude for older compared to younger adults, and P2 and N2 latencies were longer for older adults. Finally (5) behavioural performance was associated with P2 amplitude in older adults. Our results indicate that aging affects speech processing at multiple levels, including audiovisual integration (P2) and auditory attentional processes (N2). These findings have important implications for understanding barriers to communication in older ages, as well as for the development of compensation strategies for those with speech processing difficulties.

Alternate JournalNeuropsychologia
PubMed ID34228997