Opportunities, pitfalls and trade-offs in designing protocols for measuring the neural correlates of speech

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Decoding speech and speech-related processes directly from the human brain has intensified in studies over recent years as such a decoder has the potential to positively impact people with limited communication capacity due to disease or injury. Additionally, it can present entirely new forms of human-computer interaction and human-machine communication in general and facilitate better neuroscientific understanding of speech processes. Here, we synthesize the literature on neural speech decoding pertaining to how speech decoding experiments have been conducted, coalescing around a necessity for thoughtful experimental design aimed at specific research goals, and robust procedures for evaluating speech decoding paradigms. We examine the use of different modalities for presenting stimuli to participants, methods for construction of paradigms including timings and speech rhythms, and possible linguistic considerations. In addition, novel methods for eliciting naturalistic speech and validating imagined speech task performance in experimental settings are presented based on recent research. We also describe the multitude of terms used to instruct participants on how to produce imagined speech during experiments and propose methods for investigating the effect of these terms on imagined speech decoding. We demonstrate that the range of experimental procedures used in neural speech decoding studies can have unintended consequences which can impact upon the efficacy of the knowledge obtained. The review delineates the strengths and weaknesses of present approaches and poses methodological advances which we anticipate will enhance experimental design, and progress toward the optimal design of movement independent direct speech brain-computer interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104783
Number of pages21
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date27 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2022


  • Speech decoding
  • Brain-computer interfaces
  • imagined speech
  • overt speech
  • EEG
  • ECoG
  • Experimental Design
  • Protocol
  • Speech perception vs production


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