Department of Psychology
Background: Auditory feedback has been demonstrated to play an important role in the control of voice fundamental frequency (F0), but the mechanisms underlying the processing of auditory feedback remain poorly understood. It has been well documented that young adults can use auditory feedback to stabilize their voice F0 by making compensatory responses to perturbations they hear in their vocal pitch feedback. However, little is known about the effects of aging on the processing of audio-vocal feedback during vocalization.
Methodology/Principal Findings: In the present study, we recruited adults who were between 19 and 75 years of age and divided them into five age groups. Using a pitch-shift paradigm, the pitch of their vocal feedback was unexpectedly shifted ±50 or ±100 cents during sustained vocalization of the vowel sound/u/. Compensatory vocal F0 response magnitudes and latencies to pitch feedback perturbations were examined. A significant effect of age was found such that response magnitudes increased with increasing age until maximal values were reached for adults 51–60 years of age and then decreased for adults 61–75 years of age. Adults 51–60 years of age were also more sensitive to the direction and magnitude of the pitch feedback perturbations compared to younger adults.
Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that the pitch-shift reflex systematically changes across the adult lifespan. Understanding aging-related changes to the role of auditory feedback is critically important for our theoretical understanding of speech production and the clinical applications of that knowledge.
Liu P, Chen Z, Jones JA, Huang D, Liu H (2011) Auditory Feedback Control of Vocal Pitch during Sustained Vocalization: A Cross-Sectional Study of Adult Aging. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22791. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022791