Fabiano Baroni, Arwen Blanche Giraud
Neural oscillations in auditory cortex are argued to support parsing and representing speech constituents at their corresponding temporal scales. Yet, how incoming sensory information interacts with ongoing spontaneous brain activity, what features of the neuronal microcircuitry underlie spontaneous and stimulus-evoked spectral fin-gerprints, and what these fingerprints entail for stimulus encoding, remain largely open questions. We used a combination of human invasive electrophysiology, computational modeling and decoding techniques to assess the information encoding properties of brain activity and to relate them to a plausible underlying neuronal micro -architecture. We analyzed intracortical auditory EEG activity from 10 patients while they were listening to short sentences. Pre-stimulus neural activity in early auditory cortical regions often exhibited power spectra with a shoulder in the delta range and a small bump in the beta range. Speech decreased power in the beta range, and increased power in the delta-theta and gamma ranges. Using multivariate machine learning techniques, we assessed the spectral profile of information content for two aspects of speech processing: detection and discrimination. We obtained better phase than power information decoding, and a bimodal spectral profile of information content with better decoding at low (delta-theta) and high (gamma) frequencies than at intermediate (beta) frequencies. These experimental data were reproduced by a simple rate model made of two subnetworks with different timescales, each composed of coupled excitatory and inhibitory units, and connected via a negative feedback loop. Modeling and experimental results were similar in terms of pre-stimulus spectral profile (except for the iEEG beta bump), spectral modulations with speech, and spectral profile of information content. Altogether, we provide converging evidence from both univariate spectral analysis and decoding approaches for a dual timescale processing infrastructure in human auditory cortex, and show that it is consistent with the dynamics of a simple rate model.