Learning to decipher time-compressed speech: Robust acquisition with a slight difficulty in generalization among young adults with developmental dyslexia

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Learning to decipher acoustically distorted speech serves as a test case for the study of language- related skill acquisition in persons with developmental dyslexia (DD). Deciphering this type of input is rarely learned explicitly and does not yield conscious insights. Problems in implicit and procedural skill learning have been proposed as possible causes of DD. Here we examined the learning of time-compressed (accelerated) speech and its generalization to novel materials among young adults with DD compared to typical readers (TD). All participants completed a training session that involved judging the semantic plausibility of sentences, during which the level of time-compression was changed using an adaptive (staircase) procedure according to each participant's performance. In the test, phase learning (test on same items) and generalization (test on new items and same items spoken by a new speaker) were assessed. Both groups showed robust gains after training. Moreover, after training, the initial disadvantage of the DD group was no longer significant. After training, both groups experienced relative difficulties in deciphering learned tokens spoken by a different voice, though participants with DD were less able to generalize the gains to deciphering new tokens. Thus, DD individuals benefited from repeated experience with timecompressed speech no less than typical readers, but their evolving skill was apparently more dependent on the specific characteristics of the tokens. Atypical generalization, which indicates that perceptual learning is contingent on lower-level features of the input though does not necessarily point to impaired learning potential per se, may explain some of the contradictory findings in published studies of speech perception in DD.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205110
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Psychobiology in Israel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to KB, 108- 14-15.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Gabay et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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