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Whispering - the hidden side of auditory communication


Frühholz, Sascha; Trost, Wiebke; Grandjean, Didier (2016). Whispering - the hidden side of auditory communication. NeuroImage, 142:602-612.

Abstract

Whispering is a unique expression mode that is specific to auditory communication. Individuals switch their vocalization mode to whispering especially when affected by inner emotions in certain social contexts, such as in intimate relationships or intimidating social interactions. Although this context-dependent whispering is adaptive, whispered voices are acoustically far less rich than phonated voices and thus impose higher hearing and neural auditory decoding demands for recognizing their socio-affective value by listeners. The neural dynamics underlying this recognition especially from whispered voices are largely unknown. Here we show that whispered voices in humans are considerably impoverished as quantified by an entropy measure of spectral acoustic information, and this missing information needs large-scale neural compensation in terms of auditory and cognitive processing. Notably, recognizing the socio-affective information from voices was slightly more difficult from whispered voices, probably based on missing tonal information. While phonated voices elicited extended activity in auditory regions for decoding of relevant tonal and time information and the valence of voices, whispered voices elicited activity in a complex auditory-frontal brain network. Our data suggest that a large-scale multidirectional brain network compensates for the impoverished sound quality of socially meaningful environmental signals to support their accurate recognition and valence attribution.

Abstract

Whispering is a unique expression mode that is specific to auditory communication. Individuals switch their vocalization mode to whispering especially when affected by inner emotions in certain social contexts, such as in intimate relationships or intimidating social interactions. Although this context-dependent whispering is adaptive, whispered voices are acoustically far less rich than phonated voices and thus impose higher hearing and neural auditory decoding demands for recognizing their socio-affective value by listeners. The neural dynamics underlying this recognition especially from whispered voices are largely unknown. Here we show that whispered voices in humans are considerably impoverished as quantified by an entropy measure of spectral acoustic information, and this missing information needs large-scale neural compensation in terms of auditory and cognitive processing. Notably, recognizing the socio-affective information from voices was slightly more difficult from whispered voices, probably based on missing tonal information. While phonated voices elicited extended activity in auditory regions for decoding of relevant tonal and time information and the valence of voices, whispered voices elicited activity in a complex auditory-frontal brain network. Our data suggest that a large-scale multidirectional brain network compensates for the impoverished sound quality of socially meaningful environmental signals to support their accurate recognition and valence attribution.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Integrative Human Physiology
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:12 August 2016
Deposited On:25 Aug 2016 13:02
Last Modified:15 Mar 2017 08:21
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1053-8119
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.08.023
PubMed ID:27530550

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