Speech Intelligibility Predicted from Neural Entrainment of the Speech Envelope

  • Jonas VanthornhoutEmail author
  • Lien Decruy
  • Jan Wouters
  • Jonathan Z. Simon
  • Tom Francart
Research Article


Speech intelligibility is currently measured by scoring how well a person can identify a speech signal. The results of such behavioral measures reflect neural processing of the speech signal, but are also influenced by language processing, motivation, and memory. Very often, electrophysiological measures of hearing give insight in the neural processing of sound. However, in most methods, non-speech stimuli are used, making it hard to relate the results to behavioral measures of speech intelligibility. The use of natural running speech as a stimulus in electrophysiological measures of hearing is a paradigm shift which allows to bridge the gap between behavioral and electrophysiological measures. Here, by decoding the speech envelope from the electroencephalogram, and correlating it with the stimulus envelope, we demonstrate an electrophysiological measure of neural processing of running speech. We show that behaviorally measured speech intelligibility is strongly correlated with our electrophysiological measure. Our results pave the way towards an objective and automatic way of assessing neural processing of speech presented through auditory prostheses, reducing confounds such as attention and cognitive capabilities. We anticipate that our electrophysiological measure will allow better differential diagnosis of the auditory system, and will allow the development of closed-loop auditory prostheses that automatically adapt to individual users.


Neural decoding Auditory evoked potentials EEG measures Objective measures Speech understanding 



The authors thank Lise Goris and Eline Verschueren for their help with the data acquisition.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Before each experiment, the subjects signed an informed consent form approved by the Medical Ethics Committee UZ KU Leuven/Research (KU Leuven) with reference S59040.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurosciences, ExpORLKU Leuven - University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Systems ResearchUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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