Typical vs. atypical: Combining auditory Gestalt perception and acoustic analysis of early vocalisations in Rett syndrome
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Background: Early speech-language development of individuals with Rett syndrome (RTT) has been repeatedly characterised by a co-occurrence of apparently typical and atypical vocalisations. Aims: To describe specific features of this intermittent character of typical versus atypical early RTT-associated vocalisations by combining auditory Gestalt perception and acoustic vocalisation analysis. Methods and procedures: We extracted N = 363 (pre-)linguistic vocalisations from home video recordings of an infant later diagnosed with RTT. In a listening experiment, all vocalisations were assessed for (a)typicality by five experts on early human development. Listeners’ auditory concepts of (a)typicality were investigated in context of a comprehensive set of acoustic time-, spectral- and/or energy-related higher-order features extracted from the vocalisations. Outcomes and results: More than half of the vocalisations were rated as ‘atypical’ by at least one listener. Atypicality was mainly related to the auditory attribute ‘timbre’ and to prosodic, spectral, and voice quality features in the acoustic domain. Conclusions and implications: Knowledge gained in our study shall contribute to the generation of an objective model of early vocalisation atypicality. Such a model might be used for increasing caregivers’ and healthcare professionals’ sensitivity to identify atypical vocalisation patterns, or even for a probabilistic approach to automatically detect RTT based on early vocalisations.
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