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Brain. 2001 Jan;124(Pt 1):83-95.

Separate neural subsystems within 'Wernicke's area'.

Author information

  • 1MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Cyclotron Unit, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK. richard.wise@csc.mrc.ac.uk

Abstract

Over time, both the functional and anatomical boundaries of 'Wernicke's area' have become so broad as to be meaningless. We have re-analysed four functional neuroimaging (PET) studies, three previously published and one unpublished, to identify anatomically separable, functional subsystems in the left superior temporal cortex posterior to primary auditory cortex. From the results we identified a posterior stream of auditory processing. One part, directed along the supratemporal cortical plane, responded to both non-speech and speech sounds, including the sound of the speaker's own voice. Activity in its most posterior and medial part, at the junction with the inferior parietal lobe, was linked to speech production rather than perception. The second, more lateral and ventral part lay in the posterior left superior temporal sulcus, a region that responded to an external source of speech. In addition, this region was activated by the recall of lists of words during verbal fluency tasks. The results are compatible with an hypothesis that the posterior superior temporal cortex is specialized for processes involved in the mimicry of sounds, including repetition, the specific role of the posterior left superior temporal sulcus being to transiently represent phonetic sequences, whether heard or internally generated and rehearsed. These processes are central to the acquisition of long- term lexical memories of novel words.

PMID:
11133789
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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