Modulation transfer functions for audiovisual speech

Nicolai F Pedersen, Torsten Dau, Lars Kai Hansen, Jens Hjortkjær


Temporal synchrony between facial motion and acoustic modulations is a hallmark feature of audiovisual speech. The moving face and mouth during natural speech is known to be correlated with low-frequency acoustic envelope fluctuations (below 10 Hz), but the precise rates at which envelope information is synchronized with motion in different parts of the face are less clear. Here, we used regularized canonical correlation analysis (rCCA) to learn speech envelope filters whose outputs correlate with motion in different parts of the speakers face. We leveraged recent advances in video-based 3D facial landmark estimation allowing us to examine statistical envelope-face correlations across a large number of speakers (∼4000). Specifically, rCCA was used to learn modulation transfer functions (MTFs) for the speech envelope that significantly predict correlation with facial motion across different speakers. The AV analysis revealed bandpass speech envelope filters at distinct temporal scales. A first set of MTFs showed peaks around 3-4 Hz and were correlated with mouth movements. A second set of MTFs captured envelope fluctuations in the 1-2 Hz range correlated with more global face and head motion. These two distinctive timescales emerged only as a property of natural AV speech statistics across many speakers. A similar analysis of fewer speakers performing a controlled speech task highlighted only the well-known temporal modulations around 4 Hz correlated with orofacial motion. The different bandpass ranges of AV correlation align notably with the average rates at which syllables (3-4 Hz) and phrases (1-2 Hz) are produced in natural speech. Whereas periodicities at the syllable rate are evident in the envelope spectrum of the speech signal itself, slower 1-2 Hz regularities thus only become prominent when considering crossmodal signal statistics. This may indicate a motor origin of temporal regularities at the timescales of syllables and phrases in natural speech.

TidsskriftPLOS Computational Biology
Udgave nummer7
Sider (fra-til)1-23
Antal sider23
StatusUdgivet - 19 jul. 2022


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