Recent work demonstrates that learning to understand noise-vocoded (NV) speech alters sublexical perceptual processes but is enhanced by the simultaneous provision of higher-level, phonological, but not lexical content (Hervais-Adelman, Davis, Johnsrude, & Carlyon, 2008), consistent with top-down learning (Davis, Johnsrude, Hervais-Adelman, Taylor, & McGettigan, 2005; Hervais-Adelman et al., 2008). Here, we investigate whether training listeners with specific types of NV speech improves intelligibility of vocoded speech with different acoustic characteristics. Transfer of perceptual learning would provide evidence for abstraction from variable properties of the speech input. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate that learning of NV speech in one frequency region generalizes to an untrained frequency region. In Experiment 2, we assessed generalization among three carrier signals used to create NV speech: noise bands, pulse trains, and sine waves. Stimuli created using these three carriers possess the same slow, time-varying amplitude information and are equated for naïve intelligibility but differ in their temporal fine structure. Perceptual learning generalized partially, but not completely, among different carrier signals. These results delimit the functional and neural locus of perceptual learning of vocoded speech. Generalization across frequency regions suggests that learning occurs at a stage of processing at which some abstraction from the physical signal has occurred, while incomplete transfer across carriers indicates that learning occurs at a stage of processing that is sensitive to acoustic features critical for speech perception (e.g., noise, periodicity).
2011. Vol. 37, no 1, 283-295 p.