A stimulus-brain coupling analysis of regular and irregular rhythms in adults with dyslexia and controls

Anna Fiveash, Daniele Schön, Laure-Hélène Canette, Benjamin Morillon, Nathalie Bedoin, & Barbara Tillmann

Brain and Cognition, 140, 2020, 105531


When listening to temporally regular rhythms, most people are able to extract the beat. Evidence suggests that the neural mechanism underlying this ability is the phase alignment of endogenous oscillations to the external stimulus, allowing for the prediction of upcoming events (i.e., dynamic attending). Relatedly, individuals with dyslexia may have deficits in the entrainment of neural oscillations to external stimuli, especially at low frequencies. The current experiment investigated rhythmic processing in adults with dyslexia and matched controls. Regular and irregular rhythms were presented to participants while electroencephalography was recorded. Regular rhythms contained the beat at 2 Hz; while acoustic energy was maximal at 4 Hz and 8 Hz. These stimuli allowed us to investigate whether the brain responds non-linearly to the beat-level of a rhythmic stimulus, and whether beat-based processing differs between dyslexic and control participants. Both groups showed enhanced stimulus-brain coherence for regular compared to irregular rhythms at the frequencies of interest, with an overrepresentation of the beat-level in the brain compared to the acoustic signal. In addition, we found evidence that controls extracted subtle temporal regularities from irregular stimuli, whereas dyslexics did not. Findings are discussed in relation to dynamic attending theory and rhythmic processing deficits in dyslexia.

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