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Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2003 Jun;17(1):48-55.

Modulation of neural responses to speech by directing attention to voices or verbal content.

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Cognitive Neurology Unit, Department of Neurology, J.W. Goethe University, Schleusenweg 2-16, 60528, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


We studied with functional neuroimaging the cortical response to auditory sentences, comparing two recognition tasks that either targeted the speaker's voice or the verbal content. The right anterior superior temporal sulcus responded during the voice but not during the verbal content task. This response was therefore specifically related to the analysis of nonverbal features of speech. However, the dissociation between verbal and nonverbal analysis was only partial. Left middle temporal regions previously implicated in semantic processing responded in both tasks. This indicates that implicit semantic processing occurred even when the task directed attention to nonverbal input analysis. The verbal task yielded greater bilateral activation in the fusiform/lingual region, presumably reflecting an implicit translation of auditory sentences into visual representations. This result confirms the participation of visual cortical regions in verbal analysis of speech.

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