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Open Access Research article

ERP evidence for the recognition of emotional prosody through simulated cochlear implant strategies

Deepashri Agrawal1*, Lydia Timm1, Filipa Campos Viola2, Stefan Debener2, Andreas Büchner3, Reinhard Dengler1 and Matthias Wittfoth1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Psychology, Carl von Ossietzky Universität, Oldenburg, Germany

3 Department of Otolaryngology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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BMC Neuroscience 2012, 13:113  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-13-113

Published: 20 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Emotionally salient information in spoken language can be provided by variations in speech melody (prosody) or by emotional semantics. Emotional prosody is essential to convey feelings through speech. In sensori-neural hearing loss, impaired speech perception can be improved by cochlear implants (CIs). Aim of this study was to investigate the performance of normal-hearing (NH) participants on the perception of emotional prosody with vocoded stimuli. Semantically neutral sentences with emotional (happy, angry and neutral) prosody were used. Sentences were manipulated to simulate two CI speech-coding strategies: the Advance Combination Encoder (ACE) and the newly developed Psychoacoustic Advanced Combination Encoder (PACE). Twenty NH adults were asked to recognize emotional prosody from ACE and PACE simulations. Performance was assessed using behavioral tests and event-related potentials (ERPs).

Results

Behavioral data revealed superior performance with original stimuli compared to the simulations. For simulations, better recognition for happy and angry prosody was observed compared to the neutral. Irrespective of simulated or unsimulated stimulus type, a significantly larger P200 event-related potential was observed for happy prosody after sentence onset than the other two emotions. Further, the amplitude of P200 was significantly more positive for PACE strategy use compared to the ACE strategy.

Conclusions

Results suggested P200 peak as an indicator of active differentiation and recognition of emotional prosody. Larger P200 peak amplitude for happy prosody indicated importance of fundamental frequency (F0) cues in prosody processing. Advantage of PACE over ACE highlighted a privileged role of the psychoacoustic masking model in improving prosody perception. Taken together, the study emphasizes on the importance of vocoded simulation to better understand the prosodic cues which CI users may be utilizing.

Keywords:
Emotional prosody; Cochlear implants; Simulations; Event-related potentials