Influences of cognitive load on sensorimotor contributions to working memory: An EEG investigation of mu rhythm activity during speech discrimination.Neurobiol Learn Mem 2019; 166:107098NL
Sensorimotor activity during speech perception is highly variable and is thought to be related to the underlying cognitive processes recruited to meet task demands. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the impact of cognitive load on sensorimotor-based attention and working memory processes during speech perception. Manipulations of set size and signal clarity were employed to alter cognitive load. Raw EEG data recorded from 42 subjects during accurate discrimination of CV syllable pairs were decomposed by Independent component analysis; identifying sensorimotor mu components from 37 subjects. Time-frequency analyses revealed event related desynchronization (ERD) across alpha and beta frequency bands during and following stimulus presentation in all conditions, reflecting working memory maintenance through covert articulatory rehearsal. No early attentional activity was observed, suggesting adaptation to tasks. However, modulation of late working memory activity was observed between degraded and non-degraded conditions. Weak and delayed alpha and beta ERD in degraded conditions were interpreted as evidence of delayed implementation of covert rehearsal due to the prolonged time necessary to extract a phonological representation from the auditory signal. Findings are interpreted within Analysis by Synthesis to characterize the multi-faceted and temporally distinct contributions of anterior sensorimotor regions to working memory in support of speech discrimination.