The Development of Cortical Responses to the Integration of Audiovisual Speech in Infancy

Dopierała, Aleksandra A. W.; Pérez, David López; Mercure, Evelyne; Pluta, Agnieszka; Malinowska-Korczak, Anna; Evans, Samuel; Wolak, Tomasz and Tomalski, Przemysław. 2023. The Development of Cortical Responses to the Integration of Audiovisual Speech in Infancy. Brain Topography, 36(4), pp. 459-475. ISSN 0896-0267 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In adults, the integration of audiovisual speech elicits specific higher (super-additive) or lower (sub-additive) cortical responses when compared to the responses to unisensory stimuli. Although there is evidence that the fronto-temporal network is active during perception of audiovisual speech in infancy, the development of fronto-temporal responses to audiovisual integration remains unknown. In the current study, 5-month-olds and 10-month-olds watched bimodal (audiovisual) and alternating unimodal (auditory + visual) syllables. In this context we use alternating unimodal to denote alternating auditory and visual syllables that are perceived as separate syllables by adults. Using fNIRS we measured responses over large cortical areas including the inferior frontal and superior temporal regions. We identified channels showing different responses to bimodal than alternating unimodal condition and used multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to decode patterns of cortical responses to bimodal (audiovisual) and alternating unimodal (auditory + visual) speech. Results showed that in both age groups integration elicits cortical responses consistent with both super- and sub-additive responses in the fronto-temporal cortex. The univariate analyses revealed that between 5 and 10 months spatial distribution of these responses becomes increasingly focal. MVPA correctly classified responses at 5 months, with key input from channels located in the inferior frontal and superior temporal channels of the right hemisphere. However, MVPA classification was not successful at 10 months, suggesting a potential cortical re-organisation of audiovisual speech perception at this age. These results show the complex and non-gradual development of the cortical responses to integration of congruent audiovisual speech in infancy.

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Funding: This study was funded by a grant from the National Science Centre of Poland to PT (2016/23/B/HS6/03860). Additional support for data analyses was provided by the Institute of Psychology, PAS.


fNIRS, Audiovisual integration, Infant , Speech processing, Neurocognitive development

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11 April 2023Accepted
12 May 2023Published Online
July 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

31 May 2023 08:34

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2023 10:07

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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