Neural representation of spectral and temporal information in speech

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Speech is the most interesting and one of the most complex sounds dealt with by the auditory system. The neural representation of speech needs to capture those features of the signal on which the brain depends in language communication. Here we describe the representation of speech in the auditory nerve and in a few sites in the central nervous system from the perspective of the neural coding of important aspects of the signal. The representation is tonotopic, meaning that the speech signal is decomposed by frequency and different frequency components are represented in different populations of neurons. Essential to the representation are the properties of frequency tuning and nonlinear suppression. Tuning creates the decomposition of the signal by frequency, and nonlinear suppression is essential for maintaining the representation across sound levels. The representation changes in central auditory neurons by becoming more robust against changes in stimulus intensity and more transient. However, it is probable that the form of the representation at the auditory cortex is fundamentally different from that at lower levels, in that stimulus features other than the distribution of energy across frequency are analysed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)923-945
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1493
StatePublished - Mar 12 2008


  • Auditory cortex
  • Auditory nerve
  • Discrimination
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Speech
  • Tonotopic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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