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Neuropsychologia. 2008 Jan 15;46(1):301-15. Epub 2007 Jul 22.

Activation of human auditory cortex during speech perception: effects of monaural, binaural, and dichotic presentation.

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Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Albert Einstein Medical Center, 1200 West Tabor Road, Philadelphia, PA 19141, USA.


We used a rapid event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm to compare cortical activation to speech tokens presented monaurally to each ear, binaurally, and dichotically. Two forms of dichotic conditions were examined: one presented consonant-vowel (CV) syllables simultaneously to each ear while the other paired a CV syllable with a non-speech stimulus (band-limited noise). Right-handed adults were asked to differentially respond to serially presented target and distractor CV syllables. Activations were localized with reference to anatomic segmentation algorithms that allowed us to distinguish between activity in primary (PAC) and non-primary auditory cortex (NPAC). Monaural CV syllables presented to the right ear (CVR) produced highly asymmetric activations in left PAC and NPAC. A similar but reduced left hemisphere (LH) bias was evident in binaural presentation, when monaural syllables were paired with contra-aural noise, and in dichotic CV-CV presentations. However, LH activation was two times larger to CVR than any other condition, while RH activation to CVR was insubstantial. By contrast, a small rightward asymmetry in PAC activation was observed from monaural left ear (CVL) presentation. In all conditions except CVL, magnitude of response favored left PAC and NPAC. CV processing across different listening conditions disclosed complex interactions in activation. Our results confirm the superiority of left NPAC in speech processing and suggest comparable left lateralization in PAC. The findings suggest that monaural CV presentation may be more useful than previously anticipated. The paradigm developed here may hold some promise in investigations where abnormal hemispheric balance of speech processing is suspected.

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