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PURPOSE: The intense sound generated during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) complicates studies of speech and hearing. This experiment evaluated the benefits of using active noise cancellation (ANC), which attenuates the level of the scanner sound at the participant's ear by up to 35 dB around the peak at 600 Hz. METHOD: Speech and narrowband noise were presented at a low sound level to 8 listeners during fMRI using 2 common scanning protocols: short ("continuous") and long ("sparse") temporal schemes. Three outcome measures were acquired simultaneously during fMRI: ratings of listening quality, discrimination performance, and brain activity. RESULTS: Subjective ratings and discrimination performance were significantly improved by ANC and sparse acquisition. Sparse acquisition was the more robust method for detecting auditory cortical activity. ANC reduced some of the "extra-auditory" activity that might be associated with the effort required for perceptual discrimination in a noisy environment and also offered small improvements for detecting activity within Heschl's gyrus and planum polare. CONCLUSIONS: For the scanning protocols evaluated here, the sparse temporal scheme was the more preferable for detecting sound-evoked activity. In addition, ANC ensures that listening difficulty is determined more by the chosen stimulus parameters and less by the adverse testing environment.

Original publication




Journal article


J Speech Lang Hear Res

Publication Date





693 - 704


Acoustic Stimulation, Acoustics, Adult, Auditory Cortex, Brain Mapping, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Middle Aged, Noise, Parietal Lobe, Perceptual Masking, Pilot Projects, Prefrontal Cortex, Speech Perception, Temporal Lobe