Cerebellar tDCS dissociates the timing of perceptual decisions from perceptual change in speech.
Lametti DR., Oostwoud Wijdenes L., Bonaiuto J., Bestmann S., Rothwell JC.
Neuroimaging studies suggest that the cerebellum might play a role in both speech perception and speech perceptual learning. However, it remains unclear what this role is: does the cerebellum help shape the perceptual decision, or does it contribute to the timing of perceptual decisions? To test this, we used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in combination with a speech perception task. Participants experienced a series of speech perceptual tests designed to measure and then manipulate (via training) their perception of a phonetic contrast. One group received cerebellar tDCS during speech perceptual learning, and a different group received sham tDCS during the same task. Both groups showed similar learning-related changes in speech perception that transferred to a different phonetic contrast. For both trained and untrained speech perceptual decisions, cerebellar tDCS significantly increased the time it took participants to indicate their decisions with a keyboard press. By analyzing perceptual responses made by both hands, we present evidence that cerebellar tDCS disrupted the timing of perceptual decisions, while leaving the eventual decision unaltered. In support of this conclusion, we use the drift diffusion model to decompose the data into processes that determine the outcome of perceptual decision-making and those that do not. The modeling suggests that cerebellar tDCS disrupted processes unrelated to decision-making. Taken together, the empirical data and modeling demonstrate that right cerebellar tDCS dissociates the timing of perceptual decisions from perceptual change. The results provide initial evidence in healthy humans that the cerebellum critically contributes to speech timing in the perceptual domain.