Expectations boost the reconstruction of auditory features from electrophysiological responses to noisy speech

Andrew Corcoran, Ricardo Augusto Perera, Matthieu Koroma, Sid Kouider, Jakob Hohwy, Thomas Andrillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Online speech processing imposes significant computational demands on the listening brain, the underlying mechanisms of which remain poorly understood. Here, we exploit the perceptual "pop-out" phenomenon (i.e. the dramatic improvement of speech intelligibility after receiving information about speech content) to investigate the neurophysiological effects of prior expectations on degraded speech comprehension. We recorded electroencephalography (EEG) and pupillometry from 21 adults while they rated the clarity of noise-vocoded and sine-wave synthesized sentences. Pop-out was reliably elicited following visual presentation of the corresponding written sentence, but not following incongruent or neutral text. Pop-out was associated with improved reconstruction of the acoustic stimulus envelope from low-frequency EEG activity, implying that improvements in perceptual clarity were mediated via top-down signals that enhanced the quality of cortical speech representations. Spectral analysis further revealed that pop-out was accompanied by a reduction in theta-band power, consistent with predictive coding accounts of acoustic filling-in and incremental sentence processing. Moreover, delta-band power, alpha-band power, and pupil diameter were all increased following the provision of any written sentence information, irrespective of content. Together, these findings reveal distinctive profiles of neurophysiological activity that differentiate the content-specific processes associated with degraded speech comprehension from the context-specific processes invoked under adverse listening conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-708
Number of pages18
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • EEG
  • pop-out
  • predictive processing
  • speech comprehension
  • stimulus reconstruction

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