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Neural mechanisms for selectively tuning in to the target speaker in a naturalistic noisy situation.


The neural mechanism for selectively tuning in to a target speaker while tuning out the others in a multi-speaker situation (i.e., the cocktail-party effect) remains elusive. Here we addressed this issue by measuring brain activity simultaneously from a listener and from multiple speakers while they were involved in naturalistic conversations. Results consistently show selectively enhanced interpersonal neural synchronization (INS) between the listener and the attended speaker at left temporal-parietal junction, compared with that between the listener and the unattended speaker across different multi-speaker situations. Moreover, INS increases significantly prior to the occurrence of verbal responses, and even when the listener's brain activity precedes that of the speaker. The INS increase is independent of brain-to-speech synchronization in both the anatomical location and frequency range. These findings suggest that INS underlies the selective process in a multi-speaker situation through neural predictions at the content level but not the sensory level of speech.

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