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Cereb Cortex. 2006 Sep;16(9):1314-22. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Voice recognition and cross-modal responses to familiar speakers' voices in prosopagnosia.

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Cognitive Neurology Unit, Department of Neurology, J.W. Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Recognizing the voices of people we know does not only activate "voice areas" in the temporal lobe but also extraauditory areas including the fusiform "face area" (FFA). This cross-modal effect could reflect that individual face and voice information become specifically associated when becoming acquainted with a person. Here, we addressed whether the ability to have individual face representations 1) plays a role in voice recognition and 2) is required to observe cross-modal responses to voices in face areas. We compared speaker recognition performance and neuroimaging responses during the processing of familiar and nonfamiliar speakers' voices in a developmental prosopagnosic subject (SO) with the respective findings obtained in a group of 9 control subjects. Despite scoring worse than controls on recognition of familiar speakers' voices, SO had normal cross-modal responses in the FFA and normal connectivity between FFA and the voice regions. However, she had reduced activations in areas that usually respond to familiarity with people. An indication for the malfunctioning of her FFA was reduced connectivity of the FFA to a subset of these supramodal areas. In combination these data suggest that 1) voice recognition benefits from the ability to process faces at an individual level and 2) cross-modal association of voices and faces in the brain is achieved by a sensory binding and does not depend on a top-down mechanism subsequent to successful person recognition.

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