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Späth, Mona; Aichert, Ingrid; Timmann, Dagmar; Ceballos-Baumann, Andres O.; Wagner-Sonntag, Edith and Ziegler, Wolfram (2022): The role of the basal ganglia and cerebellum in adaptation to others' speech rate and rhythm: A study of patients with Parkinson's disease and cerebellar degeneration. In: Cortex, Vol. 157: pp. 81-98

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Background: Spoken language is constantly undergoing change: Speakers within and across social and regional groups influence each other's speech, leading to the emergence and drifts of accents in a language. These processes are driven by mutual unintentional imitation of the phonetic details of others' speech in conversational interactions, suggesting that continuous auditory-motor adaptation takes place in interactive language use and plasticity of auditory-motor representations of speech persists across the lifespan. The brain mechanisms underlying this large-scale social-linguistic behavior are still poorly understood. Research aim: To investigate the role of cerebellar and basal ganglia dysfunctions in unintended adaptation to the speech rhythm and articulation rate of a second speaker. Methods: Twelve patients with spinocerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA6), 15 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), and 27 neurologically healthy controls (CTRL) participated in two interactive speech tasks, i.e., sentence repetition and turn-taking (i.e., dyadic interaction with sentences produced by a model speaker). Production of scripted sentences was used as a control task. Two types of sentence rhythm were distinguished, i.e., regular and irregular, and model speech rate was manipulated in 12 steps between 2.9 and 4.0 syllables per second. Acoustic analyses of the participants' utterances were performed to determine the extent to which participants adapted their speech rate and rhythm to the model.

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