Decoding of single-trial EEG reveals unique states of functional brain connectivity that drive rapid speech categorization decisions


Objective. Categorical perception (CP) is an inherent property of speech perception. The response time (RT) of listeners' perceptual speech identification is highly sensitive to individual differences. While the neural correlates of CP have been well studied in terms of the regional contributions of the brain to behavior, functional connectivity patterns that signify individual differences in listeners' speed (RT) for speech categorization is less clear. In this study, we introduce a novel approach to address these questions. Approach. We applied several computational approaches to the EEG, including graph mining, machine learning (i.e., support vector machine), and stability selection to investigate the unique brain states (functional neural connectivity) that predict the speed of listeners' behavioral decisions. Main results. We infer that (i) the listeners' perceptual speed is directly related to dynamic variations in their brain connectomics, (ii) global network assortativity and efficiency distinguished fast, medium, and slow RTs, (iii) the functional network underlying speeded decisions increases in negative assortativity (i.e., became disassortative) for slower RTs, (iv) slower categorical speech decisions cause excessive use of neural resources and more aberrant information flow within the CP circuitry, (v) slower responders tended to utilize functional brain networks excessively (or inappropriately) whereas fast responders (with lower global efficiency) utilized the same neural pathways but with more restricted organization. Significance. Findings show that neural classifiers (SVM) coupled with stability selection correctly classify behavioral RTs from functional connectivity alone with over 92% accuracy (AUC = 0.9). Our results corroborate previous studies by supporting the engagement of similar temporal (STG), parietal, motor, and prefrontal regions in CP using an entirely data-driven approach.

Publication Title

Journal of Neural Engineering