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Neuroimage. 2012 Apr 2;60(2):1490-502. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.035. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Human auditory cortex is sensitive to the perceived clarity of speech.

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Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen's University, Kingston ON, Canada.


Feedback connections among auditory cortical regions may play an important functional role in processing naturalistic speech, which is typically considered a problem solved through serial feed-forward processing stages. Here, we used fMRI to investigate whether activity within primary auditory cortex (PAC) is sensitive to the perceived clarity of degraded sentences. A region-of-interest analysis using probabilistic cytoarchitectonic maps of PAC revealed a modulation of activity, in the most primary-like subregion (area Te1.0), related to the intelligibility of naturalistic speech stimuli that cannot be driven by stimulus differences. Importantly, this effect was unique to those conditions accompanied by a perceptual increase in clarity. Connectivity analyses suggested sources of input to PAC are higher-order temporal, frontal and motor regions. These findings are incompatible with feed-forward models of speech perception, and suggest that this problem belongs amongst modern perceptual frameworks in which the brain actively predicts sensory input, rather than just passively receiving it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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