Please wait a minute...
Acta Psychologica Sinica    2020, Vol. 52 Issue (1) : 1-11     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00001
Reports of Empirical Studies |
Effects of aging on the Mandarin lexical tone perception: Evidence from ERPs
XIAO Rong,LIANG Dandan(),LI Shanpeng
School of Chinese Language and Culture, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
Download: PDF(6863 KB)   HTML Review File (1 KB) 
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks     Supporting Info

The accurate perception of lexical tones in Mandarin Chinese is an important foundation for successfully understanding spoken Chinese. Previous behavioral studies have shown that the ability to perceive lexical tones in Mandarin declines in elderly individuals. In addition to other research areas related to language and aging, the central issue in phonetic perception during aging concerns whether perceptual changes related to aging are area-specific or area-general. The area-general language hypothesis of aging assumes that changes in language perception related to aging are caused by a decline in both general sensory perception function and high-order cognitive function. In contrast, the area-specific language hypothesis of aging assumes that changes in aging-related language perception are caused by specific deficits in language processing. Previous studies mostly detected the state of attention and focused on how area-general factors affect the processing of segmental phonemes in elderly individuals. The present study examined neurophysiological responses, particularly that of MMN, to explore whether the aging of lexical tone perception is language-specific for Mandarin.
The current study recruited 22 healthy elderly participants (age range: 55.6~79.6 years) and 18 young participants (age range: 22.7~29.0 years). In a passive oddball task, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to examine Mandarin lexical tone perception. Three syllables from a lexical tone continuum were chosen as stimuli to form an across-category stimulus pair and a within-category stimulus pair for the ERP oddball task. A non-speech stimulus pair was generated on the basis of the within-category stimulus pair. During the experiment, participants were instructed to ignore the presented sounds while watching a self-selected movie.
ERP data showed that in the across-category condition, compared with the young group, the elderly group had a smaller MMN, and there was no between-group difference in the within-category condition. In the young group, a non-speech tone elicited a larger MMN amplitude than a speech tone that shared the same pitch contour, while the elderly group did not show a speech enhancement effect. In addition, compared with that of the young group, the amplitude of the MMN elicited by the non-speech contrast in the elderly group was significantly smaller. The results indicated that the general decline in central auditory processing function was not related to the pre-attention processing of lexical tone. In addition, when the level at which the auditory input stimulus could be sensed was controlled according to peripheral hearing abilities, the decline in peripheral auditory function was not related to the preservation of or decline in lexical tone perception in the current study.
In the current study, there is no evidence that the age-related decline in area-general factors affects tone perception in the pre-attention condition. On this basis, this study further speculated that the ability of elderly Mandarin-speaking individuals to perceive lexical tone in pre-attention conditions was preserved and only declined for specific languages, and the above-mentioned decline in the processing of knowledge of Mandarin tone category and the wider preservation of the processing of speech tones are language-specific. The present study provides evidence for the area-specific language hypothesis of aging.

Keywords Mandarin      aging      lexical tone category      pre-attention      area-specific     
:  B842  
Corresponding Authors: Dandan LIANG     E-mail:
Issue Date: 21 November 2019
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Cite this article:   
XIAO Rong,LIANG Dandan,LI Shanpeng. Effects of aging on the Mandarin lexical tone perception: Evidence from ERPs[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2020, 52(1): 1-11.
URL:     OR
[1] Aerts A., van Mierlo P., Hartsuiker R. J., Hallez H., Santens P., & de Letter M . ( 2013). Neurophysiological investigation of phonological input: Aging effects and development of normative data. Brain and Language, 125( 3), 253-263.
[2] Bellis T. J., Nicol T., & Kraus N . ( 2000). Aging affects hemispheric asymmetry in the neural representation of speech sounds. Journal of Neuroscience, 20( 2), 791-797.
[3] Bidelman G. M., Villafuerte J. W., Moreno S., & Alain C . ( 2014). Age-related changes in the subcortical-cortical encoding and categorical perception of speech. Neurobiology of Aging, 35( 11), 2526-2540.
[4] Blesser B . ( 1972). Speech perception under conditions of spectral transformation: I. Phonetic characteristics. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 15( 1), 5-41.
[5] Cheng C. H., Baillet S., Hsiao F. J., & Lin Y. Y . ( 2015). Effects of aging on the neuromagnetic mismatch detection to speech sounds. Biological Psychology, 104, 48-55.
[6] Christmann C. A., Berti S., Steinbrink C., & Lachmann T . ( 2014). Differences in sensory processing of German vowels and physically matched non-speech sounds as revealed by the mismatch negativity (MMN) of the human event-related brain potential (ERP). Brain and Language, 136, 8-18.
[7] Dennis N. A., & Cabeza R . ( 2008). Neuroimaging of healthy cognitive aging. The handbook of aging and cognition, 3, 1-54.
[8] Du Y., Buchsbaum B. R., Grady C. L., & Alain C . ( 2016). Increased activity in frontal motor cortex compensates impaired speech perception in older adults. Nature Communications, 7, 1-12.
[9] Durlach N. I., & Braida L. D . ( 1969). Intensity perception. I. Preliminary theory of intensity resolution. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 46( 2B), 372-383.
[10] Folstein M. F., Folstein S. E., & McHugh P. R . ( 1975). “Mini-mental state”: a practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric research, 12( 3), 189-198.
[11] Geal-Dor M., Goldstein A., Kamenir Y., & Babkoff H . ( 2006). The effect of aging on event-related potentials and behavioral responses: comparison of tonal, phonologic and semantic targets. Clinical Neurophysiology, 117( 9), 1974-1989.
[12] Getzmann S., & Falkenstein M . ( 2011). Understanding of spoken language under challenging listening conditions in younger and older listeners: a combined behavioral and electrophysiological study. Brain Research, 1415, 8-22.
[13] Gordon-Salant S., & Fitzgibbons P. J . ( 1993). Temporal factors and speech recognition performance in young and elderly listeners. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 36( 6), 1276-1285.
[14] Harkrider A. W., Plyler P. N., & Hedrick M. S . ( 2005). Effects of age and spectral shaping on perception and neural representation of stop consonant stimuli. Clinical Neurophysiology, 116( 9), 2153-2164.
[15] Kennedy K. M., & Raz N . ( 2009). Aging white matter and cognition: differential effects of regional variations in diffusion properties on memory, executive functions, and speed. Neuropsychologia, 47( 3), 916-927.
[16] Liberman A. M., Harris K. S., Hoffman H. S., & Griffith B. C . ( 1957). The discrimination of speech sounds within and across phoneme boundaries. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 54( 5), 358-368.
[17] Lin M. C., Yan J. Z., & Sun G. H . ( 1984, February). A preliminary experiment on the normal stress of two- character Chinese. Dialect, ( 1), 57-73.
[17] [ 林茂灿, 颜景助, 孙国华 . ( 1984, 2月). 北京话两字组正常重音的初步实验. 方言, ( 1), 57-73.]
[18] Lister J. J., Maxfield N. D., Pitt G. J., & Gonzalez V. B . ( 2011). Auditory evoked response to gaps in noise: Older adults. International Journal of Audiology, 50 (4), 211-225.
[19] MacKay >D. G., & Burke D. M . ( 1990). Chapter five cognition and aging: a theory of new learning and the use of old connections. In Advances in Psychology (Vol. 71, pp. 213-263). North-Holland.
[20] Näätänen R., Lehtokoski A., Lennes M., Cheour M., Huotilainen M., Iivonen A., … Alho K . ( 1997). Language-specific phoneme representations revealed by electric and magnetic brain responses. Nature, 385, 432-434.
[21] Näätänen R., Paavilainen P., Rinne T., & Alho K . ( 2007). The mismatch negativity (MMN) in basic research of central auditory processing: a review. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118( 12), 2544-2590.
[22] Oldfield R. C . ( 1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: the Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia, 9( 1), 97-113.
[23] Persson J., Sylvester C. Y. C., Nelson J. K., Welsh K. M., Jonides J., & Reuter-Lorenz P. A . ( 2004). Selection requirements during verb generation: differential recruitment in older and younger adults. Neuroimage, 23( 4), 1382-1390.
[24] , Qi B. E., & Liu B . ( 2015). The review of categorization features of tone perception. Journal of Clinical Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 29( 15), 1396-1400.
[24] [ 亓贝尔, 刘博 . ( 2015). 声调知觉的范畴化特征及其研究进展. 临床耳鼻咽喉头颈外科杂志, 29( 15), 1396-1400.]
[25] Ren G. Q., Tang Y. Y., Li X. Q., & Sui X . ( 2013). Pre-attentive processing of Mandarin tone and intonation: Evidence from event-related potentials. In Functional brain mapping and the endeavor to understand the working brain. IntechOpen.
[26] Ross B., Fujioka T., Tremblay K. L., & Picton T. W . ( 2007). Aging in binaural hearing begins in mid-life: evidence from cortical auditory-evoked responses to changes in interaural phase. Journal of Neuroscience, 27( 42), 11172-11178.
[27] , Schneider B. A., & Pichora-Fuller M. K . ( 2000). Implications of perceptual deterioration for cognitive aging research. In F. I.M. Craik & T. A. Salthouse (Eds.), Handbook of aging and cognition(2nd ed., pp. 155-220). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
[28] Scott S. K., Blank C. C., Rosen S., & Wise R. J . ( 2000). Identification of a pathway for intelligible speech in the left temporal lobe. Brain, 123( 12), 2400-2406.
[29] Shtyrov Y., & Pulvermüller F . ( 2002). Neurophysiological evidence of memory traces for words in the human brain. Neuroreport, 13( 4), 521-525.
[30] Shtyrov Y., Kujala T., Palva S., Ilmoniemi R. J., & Näätänen R . ( 2000). Discrimination of speech and of complex nonspeech sounds of different temporal structure in the left and right cerebral hemispheres. Neuroimage, 12( 6), 657-663.
[31] Sorokin A., Alku P., & Kujala T . ( 2010). Change and novelty detection in speech and non-speech sound streams. Brain research, 1327, 77-90.
[32] Takegata R., Tervaniemi M., Alku P., Ylinen S., & Näätänen R . ( 2008). Parameter-specific modulation of the mismatch negativity to duration decrement and increment: evidence for asymmetric processes. Clinical Neurophysiology, 119( 7), 1515-1523.
[33] Taylor J. K., & , Burke D. M . ( 2002). Asymmetric aging effects on semantic and phonological processes: naming in the picture-word interference task. Psychology and Aging, 17( 4), 662-676.
[34] Wang Y., Yang X., & Liu C . ( 2017). Categorical perception of Mandarin Chinese tones 1-2 and tones 1-4: effects of aging and signal duration. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60( 12), 3667-3677.
[35] Wang Y., Yang X., Zhang H., Xu L., Xu C., & Liu C . ( 2017). Aging effect on categorical perception of Mandarin tones 2 and 3 and thresholds of pitch contour discrimination. American Journal of Audiology, 26( 1), 18-26.
[36] Wilson S. M., & Iacoboni M . ( 2006). Neural responses to non-native phonemes varying in producibility: Evidence for the sensorimotor nature of speech perception. Neuroimage, 33( 1), 316-325.
[37] Xi J., Zhang L., Shu H., Zhang Y., & Li P . ( 2010). Categorical perception of lexical tones in Chinese revealed by mismatch negativity. Neuroscience, 170( 1), 223-231.
[38] Yang X., Wang Y., Xu L., Zhang H., Xu C., & Liu C . ( 2015). Aging effect on Mandarin Chinese vowel and tone identification. The Journal of The Acoustical Society of America, 138( 4), 411-416.
[39] Yu K., Zhou Y., Li L., Su J. A., Wang R., & Li P . ( 2017). The interaction between phonological information and pitch type at pre-attentive stage: an ERP study of lexical tones. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32( 9), 1164-1175.
[40] Zhao L . ( 2010). Experimental course of ERPs. Nanjing, China: Southeast university press.
[40] [ 赵仑 . ( 2010). ERPs实验教程. 南京: 东南大学出版社.]
[1] ZHOU Heng, HE Hua, YU Wei, WANG Aijun, ZHANG Ming. Sound-induced flash illusion in elderly adults: Evidence from low-frequency fluctuation amplitudes in resting-state fMRI[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(7): 823-834.
[2] YANG Wanqing, XIAO Rong, LIANG Dandan. Lexical tone perception mechanism in 2- to 4-year-old Mandarin-speaking children in the pre-attention stage[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(6): 730-741.
[3] WU Hanlin, YU Zhou, WANG Xuejiao, ZHANG Qingfang. Language processing in normal aging: Contributions of information-universal and information-specific factors[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2020, 52(5): 541-561.
[4] ZHAO Ruiying,LOU Hao,OUYANG Mingkun,ZHANG Qingfang. Aging of the tip of the tongue in daily life: A diary study[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(5): 598-611.
[5] XIE Shushu,ZHANG Jijia,ZHU Jun. Categorical perception of color is significant both in the right visual field and the left: Evidence from Naxi speakers and Mandarin speakers[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(11): 1229-1243.
[6] YANG Qun, ZHANG Qingfang. Aging effect of picture naming in Chinese: The influence of the non-selective inhibition ability[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2019, 51(10): 1079-1090.
[7] ZHOU Chu, SU Man, ZHOU Chong, YANG Yan, XI Yaqi, DONG Qun. Imagination inflation effect in older adults[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2018, 50(12): 1369-1380.
[8] ZHANG Lanlan; SHEN Cheng; ZHU Hua; LI Xuepei; DAI Wen;WU Yin; ZHANG Jian. The effects of motor skill level and somatosensory input on motor imagery: An fMRI study on basketball free shot[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(3): 307-316.
[9] REN Zhihong, RUAN Yijun, ZHAO Qingbai, ZHANG Wei, LAI Lizu, JIANG Guangrong.  The neuropsychological mechanism of therapy in depression and anxiety disorder: A meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(10): 1302-1321.
[10] HUANG Tingting; LIU Liqian; WANG Dahua; ZHANG Wenhai. Socioeconomic status and sociometric status: Age differences on the effects of social comparison on subjective well-Being[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(9): 1163-1174.
[11] LUO Li; HUANG Min-Er. The age differences of the mediation effect of emotion regulation between traits and emotion[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(11): 1455-1466.
[12] CHEN Rui; ZHENG Yuhuang. The Impact of Loneliness on Consumer Preference of Uncertain Consumption: New Products, Product Packaging and Probabilistic Promotions[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(8): 1067-1076.
[13] CHEN Xuqian; ZHANG Jijia; ZHU Yunxia. The Research of Inhibition Deficit Hypothesis in the Aging of Speech Production: Evidence from Different Speech Level[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(3): 329-343.
[14] MAO Xiaofei; PENG Huamao. The Role of Visual Perceptual Stress in Primary Mental Ability Aging[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(1): 29-38.
[15] FAN Liangyan;FAN Xiaofang;LUO Weichao;WU Gonghang;YAN Xu;YIN Dazhi;LV Yue;ZHU Mingjun;XU Dongrong. An Explorative fMRI Study of Human Creative Thinking Using A Specially Designed iCAD System[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2014, 46(4): 427-436 .
Full text



Copyright © Acta Psychologica Sinica
Support by Beijing Magtech