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Cereb Cortex. 2010 Dec;20(12):2958-70. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq045. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Specialization along the left superior temporal sulcus for auditory categorization.

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Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.


The affinity and temporal course of functional fields in middle and posterior superior temporal cortex for the categorization of complex sounds was examined using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and event-related potentials (ERPs) recorded simultaneously. Data were compared before and after subjects were trained to categorize a continuum of unfamiliar nonphonemic auditory patterns with speech-like properties (NP) and a continuum of familiar phonemic patterns (P). fMRI activation for NP increased after training in left posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). The ERP P2 response to NP also increased with training, and its scalp topography was consistent with left posterior superior temporal generators. In contrast, the left middle superior temporal sulcus (mSTS) showed fMRI activation only for P, and this response was not affected by training. The P2 response to P was also independent of training, and its estimated source was more anterior in left superior temporal cortex. Results are consistent with a role for left pSTS in short-term representation of relevant sound features that provide the basis for identifying newly acquired sound categories. Categorization of highly familiar phonemic patterns is mediated by long-term representations in left mSTS. Results provide new insight regarding the function of ventral and dorsal auditory streams.

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