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Poster E96 - Postdoctorial Fellowship Award Winner

Development of Excitation-Inhibition Balance Predicts Speech Processing Abilities

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Katharina Menn1 (, Hannah Plueckebaum2, Lars Meyer1,3; 1MPRG Language Cycles, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany, 2Center for Cognitive Science, University of Kaiserslautern-Landau, Germany, 3Clinic for Phoniatrics and Pedaudiology, University Hospital Münster, Germany

Sensory processing relies on the interaction of excitatory and inhibitory neuronal circuits. In healthy brains, excitation and inhibition are in check, a state termed E/I-balance. As a result, cortical excitation in response to stimuli is followed by proportional inhibition. Here, we test the relevance of the development of E/I-balance for speech processing, reanalyzing a large openly accessible electroencephalography data set. To include a maximal range of E/I-balance, we include data from both typical children and autistic children, for which prior work has observed E/I-imbalance. We examined the relationship between E/I-balance and auditory processing of naturalistic speech for a final sample of 64 non-autistic children matched by age, sex, and nonverbal-IQ to 58 autistic children between 6 and 17 years of age. We employed a recently introduced functional measure of E/I-balance based on alpha oscillations and long-range temporal correlations in resting-state EEG. Auditory speech processing was quantified through EEG encoding models using the speech spectrogram as predictor. We observed significant prediction accuracies to the spectral TRF model for both non-autistic and autistic groups (p<.001). We also found a significant relationship between the developmental trajectory of E/I-balance and speech processing abilities (p=.048). Specifically, better neural processing of speech was related to balanced E/I across childhood. In contrast, lower speech processing was linked to increased excitation and thus E/I-imbalance in older children. Our results provide evidence for a relationship between E/I-balance and auditory–sensory speech processing, highlighting the potential vulnerability of speech processing in autistic children to an E/I-imbalance compared to their non-autistic counterparts.

Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Audition


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April 13–16  |  2024