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Cereb Cortex. 2007 Oct;17(10):2251-7. Epub 2006 Dec 5.

Multiple stages of auditory speech perception reflected in event-related FMRI.

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  • 1Georgetown University School of Medicine, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA.


Speech processing in auditory cortex and beyond is a remarkable yet poorly understood faculty of the listening brain. Here we show that stop consonants, as the most transient constituents of speech, are sufficient to involve speech perception circuits in the human superior temporal cortex. Left anterolateral superior temporal cortex showed a stronger response in blood oxygenation level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to intelligible consonantal bursts compared with incomprehensible control sounds matched for spectrotemporal complexity. Simultaneously, the left posterior superior temporal plane (including planum temporale [PT]) exhibited a noncategorical responsivity to complex stimulus acoustics across all trials, showing no preference for intelligible speech sounds. Multistage hierarchical processing of speech sounds is thus revealed with fMRI, providing evidence for a role of the PT in the fundamental stages of the acoustic analysis of complex sounds, including speech.

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