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Journal Article

Relationship between perceptual learning in speech and statistical learning in younger and older adults

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Neger, T. M., Rietveld, T., & Janse, E. (2014). Relationship between perceptual learning in speech and statistical learning in younger and older adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8: 628. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00628.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-001A-0C77-D
Abstract
Within a few sentences, listeners learn to understand severely degraded speech such as noise-vocoded speech. However, individuals vary in the amount of such perceptual learning and it is unclear what underlies these differences. The present study investigates whether perceptual learning in speech relates to statistical learning, as sensitivity to probabilistic information may aid identification of relevant cues in novel speech input. If statistical learning and perceptual learning (partly) draw on the same general mechanisms, then statistical learning in a non-auditory modality using non-linguistic sequences should predict adaptation to degraded speech. In the present study, 73 older adults (aged over 60 years) and 60 younger adults (aged between 18 and 30 years) performed a visual artificial grammar learning task and were presented with sixty meaningful noise-vocoded sentences in an auditory recall task. Within age groups, sentence recognition performance over exposure was analyzed as a function of statistical learning performance, and other variables that may predict learning (i.e., hearing, vocabulary, attention switching control, working memory and processing speed). Younger and older adults showed similar amounts of perceptual learning, but only younger adults showed significant statistical learning. In older adults, improvement in understanding noise-vocoded speech was constrained by age. In younger adults, amount of adaptation was associated with lexical knowledge and with statistical learning ability. Thus, individual differences in general cognitive abilities explain listeners' variability in adapting to noise-vocoded speech. Results suggest that perceptual and statistical learning share mechanisms of implicit regularity detection, but that the ability to detect statistical regularities is impaired in older adults if visual sequences are presented quickly.