Please Say What This Word Is—Vowel-Extrinsic Normalization in the Sensorimotor Control of Speech

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The extent to which the adaptive nature of speech perception influences the acoustic targets underlying speech production is not well understood. For example, listeners can rapidly accommodate to talker-dependent phonetic properties—a process known as vowel-extrinsic normalization—without altering their speech output. Recent evidence, however, shows that reinforcement-based learning in vowel perception alters the processing of speech auditory feedback, impacting sensorimotor control during vowel production. This suggests that more automatic and ubiquitous forms of perceptual plasticity, such as those characterizing perceptual talker normalization, may also impact the sensorimotor control of speech. To test this hypothesis, we set out to examine the possible effects of vowel-extrinsic normalization on experimental subjects’ interpretation of their own speech outcomes. By combining a well-known manipulation of vowel-extrinsic normalization with speech auditory-motor adaptation, we show that exposure to different vowel spectral properties subsequently alters auditory feedback processing during speech production, thereby influencing speech motor adaptation. These findings extend the scope of perceptual normalization processes to include auditory feedback and support the idea that naturally occurring adaptations found in speech perception impact speech production.

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