Explaining flexible continuous speech comprehension from individual motor rhythms

Christina Lubinus*, Anne Keitel, Jonas Obleser, David Poeppel, Johanna M. Rimmele

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


When speech is too fast, the tracking of the acoustic signal along the auditory pathway deteriorates, leading to suboptimal speech segmentation and decoding of speech information. Thus, speech comprehension is limited by the temporal constraints of the auditory system. Here we ask whether individual differences in auditory-motor coupling strength in part shape these temporal constraints. In two behavioural experiments, we characterize individual differences in the comprehension of naturalistic speech as function of the individual synchronization between the auditory and motor systems and the preferred frequencies of the systems. Obviously, speech comprehension declined at higher speech rates. Importantly, however, both higher auditory-motor synchronization and higher spontaneous speech motor production rates were predictive of better speech-comprehension performance. Furthermore, performance increased with higher working memory capacity (digit span) and higher linguistic, model-based sentence predictability - particularly so at higher speech rates and for individuals with high auditory-motor synchronization. The data provide evidence for a model of speech comprehension in which individual flexibility of not only the motor system but also auditory-motor synchronization may play a modulatory role.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20222410
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1994
Publication statusPublished - 08.03.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

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