Neural Dynamics of Phonetic Trading Relations for Variable-Rate CV Syllables
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The perception of CV syllables exhibits a trading relationship between voice onset time (VOT) of a consonant and duration of a vowel. Percepts of [ba] and [wa] can, for example, depend on the durations of the consonant and vowel segments, with an increase in the duration of the subsequent vowel switching the percept of the preceding consonant from [w] to [b]. A neural model, called PHONET, is proposed to account for these findings. In the model, C and V inputs are filtered by parallel auditory streams that respond preferentially to transient and sustained properties of the acoustic signal, as in vision. These streams are represented by working memories that adjust their processing rates to cope with variable acoustic input rates. More rapid transient inputs can cause greater activation of the transient stream which, in turn, can automatically gain control the processing rate in the sustained stream. An invariant percept obtains when the relative activations of C and V representations in the two streams remain uncha.nged. The trading relation may be simulated as a result of how different experimental manipulations affect this ratio. It is suggested that the brain can use duration of a subsequent vowel to make the [b]/[w] distinction because the speech code is a resonant event that emerges between working mernory activation patterns and the nodes that categorize them.